It has a population of approximately 430,000 and a Muslim majority population (67 percent).Only 10 percent of Brunei’s population is Christian, but the richness of its oil resources means that the sultanate has developed a diverse culture colored by the relatively large numbers of expats and foreign workers who help to service its energy industry.
Malaysia’s Federal Minister, Salleh Said Keruak, has hit back against the world’s media, claiming that they have unfairly misrepresented the ban and published what he calls “false news.” In a blog post on Saturday, Salleh claimed that Western media outlets had “hidden behind” the idea of a free press in order to fabricate the Christmas ban story.
While it is true that no “absolute” ban on Christmas was declared, Salleh’s comments fail to specify which, if any, news outlets reported it as such.
Recently, the strict, Sharia-based penal code of hudud was introduced into the country, the culmination of the Sultan’s much-publicized intention to apply Sharia law to the country.
This code includes the harsh punishments made famous by Saudi Arabia, a nation which operates the same code, and includes penalties that involve stoning to death and the severing of limbs.
Two years after protesters demonstrated outside the Beverly Hills Hotel, LGBTQ rights activists are planning fresh protests at the Sultan of Brunei’s property on Saturday.
The boycott is an effort to renew pressure on the Sultan of Brunei, whose Dorchester Collection of hotels includes the Beverly Hills and Bel Air Hotels as well as other properties around the world, and protest his implementation of Sharia law in Brunei.
He also puts forward the rather worrying proposition that the theory of evolution is only an opinion, but then goes on to say that it is important to defend the right of others to hold this “opinion.” A search of stories from several major news outlets reveal that the story of a total ban on Christmas was not reported by any of them.
It is possible, however, by reading only the headlines of these stories, to gain the impression that Christmas has been outlawed in Brunei. In previous years, Brunei appears to have caught on to the idea of Christmas as a retail extravaganza.
They both point to the display of modest decorations outside public homes, and note that the focus of enforcement has been on the tiny nation’s disproportionately large shopping malls.
This would seem to bear out the limited nature of the ban.
The ban has encountered some resistance - the social media campaign #My Treedom, which encourages Christians and other in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran to post images of themselves celebrating Christmas, includes several contributions from Brunei residents.