MoRA clarifies on festive displays
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
THE Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) yesterday clarified that publicly displaying Christmas decorations is not allowed as it propagates a religion other than Islam.
In a statement issued yesterday, the ministry said Muslims should be careful not to follow celebrations that are not related to Islam as this could lead to imitation, and “unknowingly damage” the aqidah or faith of Muslims.
The statement was in response to reports that the Syariah Affairs Department’s Religious Enforcement Division visited business premises in Brunei-Muara district on Tuesday to remove their Christmas decorations including Santa Claus figures, Christmas trees, and banners displaying Christmas greetings.
“These enforcement measures are also intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the aqidah (faith) of the Muslim community,” it added.
The statement said publicly displaying festivities of religions other than Islam and performing a ceremony or act contrary to Hukum Syara’ can be an offence under the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013.
“For example, in conjunction with Christmas celebrations, Muslim children, teenagers and adults can be seen wearing hats or clothes that resemble Santa Claus,” the ministry said.
“Muslims are prohibited from imitating the customs and practices of other religions that are related to matters of aqidah (faith). In a hadith narrated by Ibnu Umar, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Whoever imitates a people is one of them’.”
However, the ministry said it does not ban Christians from celebrating Christmas at their places of worship, within their community and in their homes.
The ministry went on to say that Brunei is an Islamic country and a “Zikir Nation” that upholds the Malay Muslim Monarchy ideology, and respects the rights of non-Muslims to practise their religion as stated in the constitution of Brunei.
“Religious freedom rights for non-Muslims are practised with peace and harmony, and also subject to other laws,” the statement read.
“Believers of other religions that live under the rule of an Islamic country - according to Islam - may practise their religion or celebrate their religious festivities among their community, with the condition that the celebrations are not disclosed or displayed publicly to Muslims,” the ministry said, adding this is stated in the Fatwa of the State Mufti of Brunei Darussalam (series 03/2005).
MoRA further said it had received “positive responses” and full cooperation from majority of business owners and entrepreneurs.
On Tuesday, The Brunei Times interviewed several restaurants and businesses in Regent Square, Kiulap who were told to remove Christmas decorations from public view.
Employees from Sorriso Restaurant and Pizzeria and Excapade Sushi said religious affairs officials had stopped by around 2pm and verbally warned them to remove decorations specifically Christmas trees, ornaments and hats by the end of the day.
“This was the first time we had received warnings about Christmas decorations since we opened in 2011,” said Chris, an employee at Sorriso.
Both restaurants also said no customers complained to them about their decorations.
Another office based in Regent Square, who declined to be named, also claimed to have been visited.
All three businesses mentioned that they were told to write their details on a piece of paper, but were not issued anything in writing.
Under 207 (1) of the Syariah Penal Code Order, any Muslim who a) teaches or expounds any doctrine relating to the religion of Islam in manner contrary to Hukum Syara or b) teaches, expounds any doctrine or carries out, performs or practises, a ceremony or act contrary to Hukum Syara is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.
The Brunei Times