Somalia bans Christmas, New Year celebrations

There will be no Christmas or New Year celebrations in Somalia for fear that activities could evoke Islamist attacks, according to the Muslim-majority country’s government.

Sheikh Mohamed Khayrow, director general of the religious affairs ministry, said on Tuesday to reporters that Christmas and New Year celebrations “could damage the faith of the Muslim community,” AFP reports. Security units have been given the order to break up any festivities related to the holidays.

Supreme Religious Council of Somalia’s Sheikh Nur Barud Gurhan said that celebrations may provoke al-Shabab militants, the Somalia Islamist extremist group, “to carry out attacks,” according to AFP. The group is allied with al-Qaeda.

In 2014, the militant group’s fighters carried out an attack on Christmas Day on the African Union’s headquarters in Mogadishu.

“Christmas will not be celebrated in Somalia for two reasons; all Somalis are Muslims and there is no Christian community here. The other reason is for security,” Abdifatah Halane, spokesman for Mogadishu mayor, told Reuters. “Christmas is for Christians. Not for Muslims.”

Al-Shabab won control of almost all of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in 2006, until a United Nations-backed force from the African Union pushed the militants out of the city in 2011 and out of the port of Kismayo in 2012.

The government of Brunei announced a similar ban on Christmas earlier this December, threatening five years in jail for violations, according to Al Jazeera.

Imams in Brunei said that using religious symbols like crosses or singing religious songs are against Islamic faith, Al Jazeera reports.

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