Somalia has issued a ban on Christmas celebrations in the Muslim-majority country after the Southeast Asian sultanate of Brunei announced a similar prohibition earlier this month with the threat of five years in jail.
Sheikh Mohamed Khayrow, director general of Somalia’s religious affairs ministry, said on Tuesday that Christmas and New Year celebrations threatened the country’s Muslim faith. “There should be no activity at all,” he told reporters, adding security forces had been ordered to break up any such festivities.
“All events related to Christmas and New Year celebrations are contrary to Islamic culture, which could damage the faith of the Muslim community.” Sheikh Nur Barud Gurhan, of the Supreme Religious Council of Somalia, also warned against celebrations, saying they could provoke al-Shabab “to carry out attacks”.
Last year, the armed group launched a Christmas Day attack on the African Union’s heavily fortified headquarters in the capital Mogadishu, killing three AU soldiers and a civilian.
Somalia, which issued a similar ban in 2013, follows the Islamic calendar that does not recognise January 1 as the beginning of the year. There are almost no Christians left living in the country, although a bombed-out Italian-built Catholic cathedral remains a city landmark Mogadishu. Foreign diplomats, aid workers, and soldiers living in the AU compound are permitted to mark the day privately.