Christmas banned in Brunei, Somalia and Tajikistan
Brunei's citizens face jail for wearing 'clothes or hats that resemble Santa Claus'
Officials in Somalia, Tajikistan and Brunei have banned Christmas celebrations this year as part of a crackdown on Christian traditions in the majority-Muslim nations.
Residents of the oil-rich sultanate of Brunei face the harshest penalties, which include a five-year prison sentence for any Muslim caught celebrating Christmas, although Christians are allowed to mark the holiday unmolested.
The ban extends to "using religious symbols like crosses, lighting candles, putting up Christmas trees, singing religious songs [and] sending Christmas greetings", local press reported.
People of Muslim faith in the south-east Asian nation have also been warned by the government that they face a mandatory prison sentence for wearing "clothes or hats that resemble Santa Claus".
The new rules come after the nation's leader, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (above), pledged last year to start enforcing the sharia legal code.
Some local residents have taken to social media to vent their frustration, posting images of Christmas trees and decorations with the hashtag #MyTreedom.
In Africa, Somalia's ministry of religion director Sheikh Mohamed Kheyrow announced in a statement that the government is "against celebration of Christmas, which is only for Christians".
"The Christmas holiday and its drum beatings have nothing to do with Islam," Sheikh Kheyrow said in an announcement on national radio. Somalia has only a handful of non-Muslim residents, and The Guardian suggests that the edict may be directed at Somalis returning to the country from Europe and North America having picked up Western traditions.
Tajikistan has also continued its crackdown on festivities seen as alien to Tajik culture, including Halloween. This year, the bans have been extended to include Christmas trees, fireworks and any form of gift-giving in schools. Christmas has long been a touchy subject in the former Soviet country, which is majority Muslim but officially secular. In 2011, a man dressed as Father Frost – the Russian version of Santa Claus – was stabbed to death in the capital city, Dushanbe, reported Fox News.