Christmas will be celebrated worldwide tomorrow, Dec. 25 but Christians in Somalia, Brunei or Tajikistan will not be able to join other faithful globally as the three countries have ban celebration of the festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ.
“There should be no activity at all,” said Sheikh Mohamed Khayrow, director general of Somalia’s religious affairs ministry, when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday. He said the festival threatens the Muslim faith.
“All events related to Christmas and New Year celebrations are contrary to Islamic culture, which could damage the faith of the Muslim community.”
Another reason given by Somalia is that celebration of Christmas can provoke Al-Shabaab attacks. The Islamist militants, which controlled the capital Mogadishu until 2011, had a ban on Christmas celebrations as one of their edicts. But it may come as a surprise to many that the Somali government seem to be echoing the militant group’s sentiments despite the presence of AU forces from majority Christian countries in East Africa which are helping in the fight against Al-Shabaab and had suffered attacks in their home countries as a result of their efforts in Somalia.
“Christmas will not be celebrated in Somalia for two reasons; all Somalis are Muslims and there is no Christian community here. The other reason is for security,” Reuters quoted Abdifatah Halane, spokesman for Mogadishu mayor, to have said. “Christmas is for Christians. Not for Muslims.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a Dec. 25 attack on an AU base last year, in which three peacekeepers and a civilian contractor were killed.
Somalia’s ban on Christmas celebration came after the Southeast Asian sultanate of Brunei took a similar position earlier this month. Other faiths are practised in Brunei including Buddhism (13%) and Christianity (10%). But some 41,000 Christians in the sultanate risk five years in jail if they dare celebrate Christmas and they are caught doing so.
Tajikistan which considers itself a secular state with a Constitution providing for freedom of religion, has also banned Christmas.
Although, the population of Tajikistan is 98 percent Muslim, most of them do not observe daily prayer and dietary restrictions. Unlike Brunei and Somalia, ban on Christmas in Tajikistan tends towards secularism than Islamization, In what as been regarded as an anti-Islam drive in the country, men are being forced to shave their beards and women who wear hijab are labeled as prostitutes. Earlier in the year, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon directed his parliament to consider a bill that would restrain registration of names which are deemed to be ‘too Arabic’.