One of the richest men in the world, the Sultan of Brunei, makes Ebeneezer Scrooge look like an angel of mercy.
The Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, had his minister of religious affairs issue a decree that bans the celebration of Christmas — including the wearing of Santa hats. Violators risk a stiff fine and 5 years in prison.
Brunei’s sharia-based penal code, first implemented in 2013, suggests that any Muslim who follows non-Islamic practices could face a fine as high as about $15,000 and up to five years in prison as punishment.
Although Christians are not prohibited from privately celebrating, they are warned that their Christmas activities should not be “disclosed or displayed publicly to Muslims.” More than 8 percent of the country is said to be Christian, and the website of the Brunei prime minister notes the “joyous and colourful celebration enjoyed by Christians throughout the country.”
According to news reports, the ban remains in place this year, as well. The Borneo Bulletin, a local independent newspaper, reports that a number of imams warned Muslims earlier this month of the problems they would face if they celebrated Christmas.
“During Christmas celebrations, Muslims following that religion’s acts — such as using their religious symbols like the cross, lighting candles, making Christmas trees and singing religious songs, sending Christmas greetings, using signs praising the religion, putting up decorations or creating sounds and doing anything that amounts to respecting their religion — are against the Islamic faith,” the imams were quoted as saying during Friday prayers.
While the Christian tradition of Christmas is generally not celebrated in the Muslim world, it is accepted to varying degrees in different nations — the United Arab Emirates has largely embraced it as a non-religious event, while conservative Saudi Arabia requires that all Christian celebrations remain private.
The Grinch wasn’t a Muslim but he’d fit right in with the Sultan:
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has ruled Brunei as an absolute monarch since 1967. Bolstered by exports of crude oil and natural gas, he leads a lavish life: His personal fortune is estimated at about $20 billion, and the 1,800-room palace he calls home, the Istana Nurul Iman, is said to be the world’s largest residence of a head of state. However, the sultan has faced international criticism for his decision to implement a harsh version of Islamic law that would allow for stonings and amputations. A number of celebrities, including Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, have boycotted a hotel chain owned by the sultan in protest.
Don’t expect Hollywood to express much outrage this time. Their last protest was based on the anti-gay policies of the Brunei government. And their “protest” involved not staying or going to functions at the 5-star Beverly Hills Hotel, in which the Sultan has a healthy stake.
But since this is just your boilerplate anti-Christian, anti-Christmas stuff, we’ll not hear a peep from the denizens of La La Land.