Brunei Explains Its Christmas Celebration Ban

Brunei officially prohibits public Christmas celebrations as they can lead Muslims astray and damage their faith, Brunei’s Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) clarified in a statement over the weekend.

“These enforcement measures are…intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the aqidah (faith) of the Muslim community,” the ministry said in a press release published in The Brunei Times over the weekend.

The statement came in response to reports last week that the Syariah Affairs Department’s Religious Enforcement Division had visited businesses in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan and instructed them to remove decorations including Christmas trees, banners and Santa Claus figures, as The Diplomat reported last week.

Brunei, a tiny, oil-rich country with a population of just around 420,000 people, two-thirds of whom are Malay-Muslim, is no stranger to religious restrictions. Many had feared that the practice would increase following the implementation of a strict new penal code in May, which curbed various forms of religious expression such as teaching, proselytism, religious publishing, and even speaking freely to Muslims and atheists about one’s own religious beliefs…

CIA World Factbook estimate of religion in Brunei: Muslim (official) 78.8%, Christian 8.7%, Buddhist 7.8%, other (includes indigenous beliefs) 4.7% (2011 est.)