Malay Muslim groups say Brunei’s Christmas ban “against Islamic principles”

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Malaysia Christmas
Christmas decoration in a shopping mall in Sarawak

A total of 30 Malaysian civil societies of different faiths, among them a number of Muslim groups, on December 24 called on the Malaysian government to officially voice its protest and concern to the Brunei government for criminalising public Christmas celebrations, saying that the ban also affected Malaysian citizens in Brunei, and went “against Islamic principles of tolerance and respect for religious freedom.”

“We urge the federal government of Malaysia and the state governments of Sabah and Sarawak to register their strongest protest and grave concern to the Brunei government,” the civil societies said in a joint statement.

The groups said celebrations of any faith were not synonymous with proselytisation [an attempt to convert someone to one’s own religious faith] and called the ban “unwarranted religious repression”.

“If Malaysia gives passive consent to such religious persecution of non-Muslims under the flimsy pretext of respecting national sovereignty, then Malaysia forfeits the moral high ground to speak up against similar religious repression of Muslims elsewhere in the world,” the statement reads.

Dorchester
The Dorchester hotel in London, flagship of Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection, with Christmas decoration as seen two days ago

They added that the criminalisation was “hostile and offensive” to Malaysia, given that it was also imposed on Malaysians working, residing or traveling in Brunei. Offenders may be jailed up to five years or issued a fine of up to $20,000, or both, for observing such celebrations in teh public.

Christians are in the majority in Malaysia’s province of Sarawak and the second biggest religious group in Sabah.

The societies also warned that the ban would “fuel Islamaphobia and portray Islam as a religion of intolerance and repression.”

“Brunei should instead show the world that Islam stands for inclusivity and justice and fairness,” they said.

In addition, Malaysia’s outspoken Islamic National Trust Party (Parti Amanah Negara) said that the Sultan of Brunei has gone “overboard” with the criminalisation of Christmas celebrations.

The party’s Spokesman Khalid Samad argued it was “more important to remind Muslims that while it was permissible to wish Christians, the occasion [of Christmas] was not part of Muslim celebrations.”

He added that “it’s a question of giving them proper understanding, which should suffice as protection from them being overzealous or over-involved in such celebrations. Unfortunately, the Sultan’s actions may give the wrong impression as to what Islam is about. Prophet Muhammad practised tolerance and mutual respect towards other religions.”

The joint statement a civil societies was signed by Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAMAN), Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM), ENGAGE, Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisation (Prima), Gerakan Reformasi Anak Muda Sarawak (Gerak), Institute for Development of Alternative Living (IDEAL), Komuniti Muslim Universal (KMU and Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG), Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (Mitra), Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (Mipas), Malaysian Youth Care Association (Prihatin), Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET), Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement (DEMA), National Indian Rights Action Team (NIAT),  Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall (NSCAH),  Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI),  Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran), Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (Permas), Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Malaysia (Proham), Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (Rapat), Peoples Service Organisation (PSO), Projek Dialog, Rise of Sarawak Efforts (R.O.S.E.), Sabah Women’s Action-Resources Group (SAWO), Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA HQ), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI).

Dubai Christmas
Christmas at Wafi Mall in Dubai: Tolerance is permissible

 

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Christmas decoration in a shopping mall in Sarawak

A total of 30 Malaysian civil societies of different faiths, among them a number of Muslim groups, on December 24 called on the Malaysian government to officially voice its protest and concern to the Brunei government for criminalising public Christmas celebrations, saying that the ban also affected Malaysian citizens in Brunei, and went “against Islamic principles of tolerance and respect for religious freedom.”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Malaysia Christmas
Christmas decoration in a shopping mall in Sarawak

A total of 30 Malaysian civil societies of different faiths, among them a number of Muslim groups, on December 24 called on the Malaysian government to officially voice its protest and concern to the Brunei government for criminalising public Christmas celebrations, saying that the ban also affected Malaysian citizens in Brunei, and went “against Islamic principles of tolerance and respect for religious freedom.”

“We urge the federal government of Malaysia and the state governments of Sabah and Sarawak to register their strongest protest and grave concern to the Brunei government,” the civil societies said in a joint statement.

The groups said celebrations of any faith were not synonymous with proselytisation [an attempt to convert someone to one’s own religious faith] and called the ban “unwarranted religious repression”.

“If Malaysia gives passive consent to such religious persecution of non-Muslims under the flimsy pretext of respecting national sovereignty, then Malaysia forfeits the moral high ground to speak up against similar religious repression of Muslims elsewhere in the world,” the statement reads.

Dorchester
The Dorchester hotel in London, flagship of Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection, with Christmas decoration as seen two days ago

They added that the criminalisation was “hostile and offensive” to Malaysia, given that it was also imposed on Malaysians working, residing or traveling in Brunei. Offenders may be jailed up to five years or issued a fine of up to $20,000, or both, for observing such celebrations in teh public.

Christians are in the majority in Malaysia’s province of Sarawak and the second biggest religious group in Sabah.

The societies also warned that the ban would “fuel Islamaphobia and portray Islam as a religion of intolerance and repression.”

“Brunei should instead show the world that Islam stands for inclusivity and justice and fairness,” they said.

In addition, Malaysia’s outspoken Islamic National Trust Party (Parti Amanah Negara) said that the Sultan of Brunei has gone “overboard” with the criminalisation of Christmas celebrations.

The party’s Spokesman Khalid Samad argued it was “more important to remind Muslims that while it was permissible to wish Christians, the occasion [of Christmas] was not part of Muslim celebrations.”

He added that “it’s a question of giving them proper understanding, which should suffice as protection from them being overzealous or over-involved in such celebrations. Unfortunately, the Sultan’s actions may give the wrong impression as to what Islam is about. Prophet Muhammad practised tolerance and mutual respect towards other religions.”

The joint statement a civil societies was signed by Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAMAN), Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM), ENGAGE, Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisation (Prima), Gerakan Reformasi Anak Muda Sarawak (Gerak), Institute for Development of Alternative Living (IDEAL), Komuniti Muslim Universal (KMU and Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG), Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (Mitra), Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (Mipas), Malaysian Youth Care Association (Prihatin), Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET), Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement (DEMA), National Indian Rights Action Team (NIAT),  Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall (NSCAH),  Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI),  Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran), Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (Permas), Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Malaysia (Proham), Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (Rapat), Peoples Service Organisation (PSO), Projek Dialog, Rise of Sarawak Efforts (R.O.S.E.), Sabah Women’s Action-Resources Group (SAWO), Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA HQ), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI).

Dubai Christmas
Christmas at Wafi Mall in Dubai: Tolerance is permissible

 

 

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