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Asia Minute: Santa Claus Skipping Brunei This Year

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

If you’re enjoying this Christmas day around a tree or celebrating at home with family members, the odds are very good that you’re not in Brunei.  The Sultan of Brunei has banned Christmas celebrations in his Southeast Asian nation—and breaking that law could lead to prison time.  HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

You don’t want to dress up like Santa Claus in Brunei this year…that could land you in jail for five years.  Islam is the official religion of the country…and is followed by more than two-thirds of its residents.  Last year, Brunei became the first country in East Asia to adopt Sharia law---including the severing of limbs for certain offenses and death by stoning for others—including adultery and homosexuality.

This year, religious sermons published in the local media warned in part that “…putting up Christmas trees, singing religious songs, sending Christmas greetings…are against Islamic faith.”  Christians in Brunei are allowed to mark the occasion… quietly.  Government guidance tells them not to celebrate “excessively and openly.”

Local hotels catering to westerners have not put up lights or decorations this year.  But that’s not the case with the Sultan of Brunei’s international real estate holdings.  Those include properties from London’s Dorchester Hotel to California’s Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air - each of which is quite openly wishing their guests a very Merry Christmas.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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