Muslim majority Brunei restricts public celebrations, warning of danger to Islamic faith
A social media campaign is giving Christians around the world a chance to celebrate Christmas together, even if they are restricted from doing so in public.
From Saudi Arabia to Brunei, Christians feeling the heat from local regimes are feeling free to post photos of their Christmas trees and Nativity scenes on Facebook and Twitter.
All part of the #MyTreedom campaign, posts tell stories of Yuletide trees being smuggled into Saudi Arabia, Christmas pageants in Pakistan and hopes that Christians might continue to find safe havens as the Islamic State group threatens cities like Karbala and Baghdad.
“It’s so heartwarming to see the courage and resilience they can show in the face of persecution,” Lisa Daftari, a foreign affairs journalist from Los Angeles who started the Facebook page in early December, told the Daily Mail. It now has more than 24,000 likes. “The goal is to raise awareness about the increased threat of global Christian persecution that is often missing from political headlines these days.”
The kingdom of Brunei, which is about 65 precent Muslim, is the latest to put restrictions on celebrations of the birth of Christ. The tiny nation, on the island of Borneo, has banned public festivities, warning that putting up decorations or singing carols could threaten the country’s Muslim faith, the Telegraph reported.
The move was initiated last year, after authorities were alarmed by some people dressing up like Santa Claus. Brunei had just implemented Sharia law the previous year.
According to Agence France-Presse last year, a government statement warned that non-Islamic rituals or festivities could be seen as “propagations of religions other than Islam.”
It noted in particular: “For example, in conjunction with Christmas celebrations, Muslim children, teenagers and adults can be seen wearing hats or clothes that resemble Santa Claus.”
“Believers of other religions that live under the rule of an Islamic country — according to Islam — may practice their religion or celebrate their religious festivities among their community, with the condition that the celebrations are not disclosed or displayed publicly to Muslims,” the statement said. “Muslims should be careful not to follow celebrations such as these that are not in any way related to Islam … and could unknowingly damage the faith of Muslims.”