Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, banned Christmas celebration for his Muslim residents in order to preserve the beliefs of the small Borneo nation. The fine for people caught celebrating this holiday could get up to $20.000, five years of prison, or even both, according to the country’s new law.

The Sultan, who has ruled the country for nearly 50 years, first introduced the ban on Christmas 2014, time when the country also adopted a stricter criminal code based on Islamic law. The ban was re-announced in the Burneo Bulletin this month.

Brunei is an oil rich nation located in the Asian continent next to Indonesia. About 65% of its population follows Muslim beliefs, while the other percentage is composed by many other religions including Christianity – which is also affected by this pronouncement.

Brunei’s newly wed royal couple, Muhammad Ruzaini (2nd L) and Princess Hafizah Sururul Bolkiah (2nd R), pose with Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Queen Saleha at the Istana Nurul Iman Palace. Credits : Reuters/Realty Today

Any Muslims discovered celebrating the holiday, along with non-Muslims caught organizing public celebrations, or even perform activities such as sending festive greetings, wearing Santa hats, or placing Christmas trees, will apply for the prison sentence.

Christians and other religious population aside from the Muslims, who wish to celebrate Christmas, may have to ask for permission in advance to the pertinent authorities and must celebrate in private.

“Some may think that it is a frivolous matter and should not be brought up as an issue […]But as Muslims…we must keep it away as it could affect our Islamic faith,” the Imams said, according to Express journal.

Local Islamic religious leaders have also promoted the ban by warning that celebrating this type of holiday is an attempt to imitate another faith or religion, which is strongly prohibited in some interpretations of the Islam.

An Internet campaign called #MyTreedom has also been created in response to this measure, in which people around the world upload media celebrating the holiday.

Source: IB times