“Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.” — Barack Obama
“BORNEO SHOCK! After ‘hudud’, Brunei bans public celebration of Christmas,” Malaysia Chronicle, January 9, 2015:
KUALA LUMPUR – Officials in Brunei have banned the public celebration of the Christmas holiday, the country’s Religious Affairs Department confirmed yesterday after reports emerged that the authorities raided restaurants and other buildings that had put up holiday decorations.
The raids and crackdown on Christian symbols are said to be another sign of the eroding religious freedoms of non-Muslims in the oil-rich country.
Syariah enforcement officials confirmed they had visited restaurants and cafes in the nation’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, to instruct them to remove their decorations ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations.
A staff member at one location said enforcement staff came to the restaurant and verbally warned the management against exhibiting decorations that went against Islamic beliefs.
In May last year, Brunei, which has a population of around 420,000, two-thirds of whom are Malay-Muslim, began implementing a strict new penal code first published in October 2013, following an announcement by its ruling monarch, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
It imposed restrictions on the religious freedom of non-Muslims, including forms of religious expression such as teaching, proselytism, religious publishing and even speaking freely to Muslims and atheists about one’s own religious beliefs. Even minor infractions are punishable by heavy fines and in some cases prison sentences as well.
Islam has long been Brunei’s official religion, with strict bans on the sale and consumption of alcohol and Islamic laws in place governing personal and family affairs. But the new regulations grabbed headlines worldwide because they extended laws to cover criminal offences such as adultery, sodomy and apostasy, and proposed severe punishments, including stoning to death and amputation.
Thus far, it is not clear how the ban on Christmas decorations will be implemented, but religious authorities said “Muslims should be careful not to follow celebrations such as (Christmas) that are not in any way related to Islam … and could unknowingly damage the faith of Muslims”.