Christmas has been banned in Brunei.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world’s richest men, announced last year that he would introduce Sharia law in his oil-rich sultanate.
Sultan of Brunei bans Christmas 'because it cd damage faith of Muslims' | Five years in jail if one celebrates X'mas https://t.co/QeiNB4EFV4— Tarek Fatah (@TarekFatah) December 22, 2015
Although Christians are free to celebrate, they have been told not to do so “excessively and openly” in the South-East Asian nation which sits on a corner of the island of Borneo.
Businesses, including hotels, have been warned not to put decorations up. Spot checks are being carried out.
Why has Brunei banned Christmas?
The ban is set to be rigidly enforced due to concerns that the prominent religious symbols are against the Islamic faith.
The government warned last year that Muslims would be committing an offence if they even wore “hats and clothes that resemble Santa Claus.”
Those who contravene the Sharia ruling risk a five-year jail sentence.
The campaign group Human Rights Watch has described the ban as “a flagrant violation of the freedom of worship.”
The celebration of Christmas has also been banned in Somalia.
The government of the conflict-torn state has warned that Christian festivities like Christmas could threaten national observance of the Muslim faith.
Security services have been ordered to stop any gatherings taking place.
Foreign nationals are free to hold Christmas celebrations in their own homes and in compounds housing international organisations.
However, any sign of Christmas celebration at hotels and other public places has been prohibited.
Comparisons have been drawn with other countries.
Some see a similarity with France, for example, where outward signs of religious affiliation were banned in schools and some public buildings in 2004 and face-covering veils banned in 2011.
Christians In Middle East Share 'My Treedom' Christmas Celebrations On Social Media To Combat Religious Persec… https://t.co/QRiZXCAbAj— Middle East Links (@dlMiddleEast) December 22, 2015
Christians living in countries where Christmas has been ruled out have launched the #MyTreedom campaign
They are putting up Christmas trees in their homes and sharing pictures of their decorations on Facebook with the hashtag #MyTreedom.
The page so far has images from Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Pakstan and has more than 24,000 likes.