We have all heard the popular story by Dr Seuss where the Grinch, who despises almost everything, stole Christmas, but for the people of Brunei, their very own Sultan as come as a real life version of the Grinch, who has deprived them from celebrating the festival.

A ban says that Muslims seen participating in Christmas celebrations and wearing symbols like a Santa hat or a cross will face up to five years in prison and a $15000 to $20000 fine, reports International Business Times.

Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah

The country ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah as an absolute Monarchy since 1967, has a population of 430,000 of which 78% are Muslims. But the ban on Christmas celebrations applicable only on Muslims came after a Sharia based legal code was implemented in 2013.

The country with a rich economy reinforced by oil and natural gas income, has Christians too, who make up 8% of the population. The law allows them to celebrate Christmas, but in private functions which are not displayed or disclosed to Muslims, as reported by The Washington Post.

Representational image

The monarch with a lavish lifestyle and oil money, seems to be following other oil rich monarchies like Saudi Arabia, as people even face floggings for breach of a moral code, according to a report in The Daily Beast. This comes as some monarchies such as UAE have embraced it as a “non religious” festival, and efforts are being made to bring faiths together globally.

While local Islamic leaders have backed the ban, the website of Brunei’s Prime Ministerdescribes Christmas as “a joyous and colourful celebration enjoyed by Christians throughout the country”. The Sultan who grew up as a playboy prince, is known for his lavish lifestyle in a palace with 1800 rooms.

But recent incidents of implementing a harsh version of Islam through high handed policies, have seen a decline in his popularity, as celebrities like Jay Leno and Stephen Fryhave started boycotting a chain of hotels owned by him.

All images sourced from Reuters