The Somali government has banned the celebration of Christmas, claiming that Christian festivals threaten the country’s Islamic heritage.
Officials at the country’s religious affairs ministry said security agencies have been directed to crackdown on anybody they suspect of celebrating Christmas in the Sharia law-run country this year.
“Having Muslims celebrate Christmas in Somalia is not the right thing, such things are akin to the abandonment," top government official Mohamed Kheyrow was quoted locally as saying.
"Those celebrations are not in any way related to Islam," a religious affairs ministry official added.
Foreign nationals are understood to be free to celebrate Christmas in their own homes, but hotels have been told to prevent any form of public rejoicing. The ban will not apply to UN or to African Union peacekeepers operating in the country, according to the BBC.
The ban has been introduced as a reaction to thousands of former refugees returning to Somalia now that the country is in the process of recovering following years of civil war.
Having spent years living in the West, many of those now returning to their homeland are bringing European customs with them, including the celebration of Christmas.
While Yuletide festivities remain incredibly rare, Somalia’s religious affairs ministry are concerned that the practice could catch on and eventually lead Muslims to convert to Christianity.
Another concern is that the public celebration of Christmas would be a magnet for a terror attack by the Al Qaeda-affiliated terror group Al Shabab, who have previously targeted hotels popular with Western visitors in the country’s capital city Mogadishu.
Somalia officially adopted Sharia law in 2009, with 99.8% of the country’s population of 10 million belonging to the Islamic faith.
The practice of Christianity remains incredibly rare, with adherents making up less than 0.1%, according to a 2010 study by the Pew Research Center.