By Tim Marshall
The wives of the Sultan of Brunei, are rumoured (in the offices of the W&Y anyway) to be angry with him for banning Christmas in public as part of his support for Islam. However we can’t confirm this because A) it’s hard to get a journalism visa for Brunei, and B) even his wives are not allowed to criticize him.
If they were, then they might have said “Sultan! What are playing at? Rumours about you having sex with hundreds of women, drinking alcohol, and having a brother who’s siphoned off billions from the State coffers are one thing – but this is serious – people all over the world might make fun of us for this!”
However, the Sultan is indeed adding to the gaiety of the globe by banning public displays of Christmas festivities in Brunei. This follows his imposition of sharia law last year, which now applies to everyone except the Royal Family. The exemption would be particularly useful if any of the Royal Family were gay as Brunei is moving towards having homosexuals stoned to death.
But back to the weighty matter of singing ‘Ho Ho Ho’. Officials from his Religious Enforcement Division have been busy visiting business and offices displaying Santa Claus figures, Christmas trees, and banners displaying Christmas greetings and asking for them to be removed.
Imams have given sermons saying it against Islam for believers to send Christmas greetings, put up decorations, or create sounds associated with Christmas. Apparently it might affect their own beliefs. Christians can celebrate within their own communities, but only if such celebrations cannot be seen by Muslims. The penalties for not obeying this range from a $20,000 fine, to five years in jail.
In previous years the 10% or so of Brunei’s population which are Christian could celebrate their 2nd most holy festival openly. Ex pats from around the world enjoyed the full trimmings in hotels decked out in holly, Christmas trees, and dazzling lights. Not this year though, the Sultan has severely downgraded his version of respect for the religion of others.
He is thought to fully understand the power of temptation. The Sultan lives in a 1,700 bed palace, is not short of a $billion or ten, and appears to enjoy a heady mix of Islamic practice and secular Western lifestyle. So does his brother, Prince Jefri, who used to have a yacht he named ‘Tits’. Such frippery is easily affordable for a family which rules over a population of just 415,00, but also oil and gas reserves which make Brunei one of the richest countries in the world. Or looking at it another way – which make the family one of the richest families in the world.
But the Sultan is of course also a highly respected figure, especially in the UK where he is both an Honorary General in the British Army and an Honorary Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy. That takes some doing! He has played polo with Prince Charles, and Queen Elizabeth II gave him an Honorary Knighthood. Kings College London awarded him an Honorary Law Doctorate. However, possibly his highest honour came in 2011 when Vanity Fair dubbed the Sultan, and his brother, the ‘Constant Companions in Hedonism’.
The W&Y would like to take this opportunity to wish the Sultan ‘Happy Christmas’.