For sanctity and security, Somalia bans Christmas

For sanctity and security, Somalia bans Christmas
Somalia has become the latest Muslim-majority country to ban Christmas and New Year celebrations, with religious leaders warning the 'un-Islamic practice' could becomes a magnet for extremist attacks.
2 min read
23 December, 2015
Somalis have coped with war, famine and now religious extremism over the past decade [AFP]

Somalia's government has banned celebrations of Christmas and New Year, saying the festivities might attract extremist attacks.

"All events related to Christmas and New Year celebrations are contrary to Islamic culture, which could damage the faith of the Muslim community," the director general of the religious affairs ministry told reporters on Tuesday.

Sheikh Mohamed Khayrow said security forces had been ordered to break up any such celebrations. "There should be no activity at all," he said.

Sheikh Nur Barud Gurhan, of the Supreme Religious Council of Somalia, said that non-Muslim festivities might provoke the ire of al-Shebab, East Africa's al-Qaeda branch, which is headquartered in Somalia.

"We are warning against the celebration of such events which are not relevant to the principles of our religion," Gurhan added, saying it could provoke the Shebab "to carry out attacks".

Last Christmas Shebab militants launched a attack on Mogadishu airport that killed at least 12 people.

Somalia is at least the second Muslim majority country to ban Christmas this year, after Brunei announced a similar prohibition. A number of other Arab countries have restrictions on Christmas celebrations.

Somalia also issued a previous ban in 2013.

It was also reported that Jewish extremists in Israel had "banned" Christmas.

Somalia also follows the Islamic calendar that does not recognise 1 January as the beginning of the year.

There are almost no Christians left living in Somalia, although a bombed-out Italian-built Catholic cathedral remains a city landmark in the capital Mogadishu.

Foreign diplomats, aid workers and soldiers living in the fortified airport compound are permitted to hold private parties.