How a Grinch Sultan Stole Christmas
By threatening those celebrating publicly with 5 years in prison
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2015 8:05 AM CST
Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah meets with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on March 12, 2013.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(Newser) – Don't be caught wearing a Santa hat in Brunei unless you want to spend the next five years in prison. Hassanal Bolkiah, the sultan of the Muslim country on Borneo, has banned "the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly" for fear it could lead to "tasyabbuh (imitation) and unknowingly damage the aqidah (faith) of Muslims," the Ministry of Religious Affairs says, per the Telegraph. Imams say putting up Christmas trees, lighting candles, donning Christmas attire, and hanging decorations is forbidden. "It could affect our Islamic faith," they say, per the Sydney Morning Herald. Brunei's non-Muslims, who make up 32% of the population, are allowed to celebrate privately but need to first alert authorities.

They must also keep the festivities secret from Muslims. Anyone found celebrating publicly or sharing details with Muslims could be found in violation of a law prohibiting propagating religions other than Islam to a Muslim. The maximum penalty: a $20,000 fine and five years in prison, reports the Independent. While Brunei's free education and health care and high standard of living keep political dissent to a minimum, the Telegraph notes some residents have rejected the ban. Christmas pictures from Borneo can be found online under the hashtag #MyTreedom. Brunei's sultan announced the adoption of Sharia law in 2013, though the Herald reports the "introduction appears to have been delayed without public explanation."
 

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