Somali government bans Christmas celebrations

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Somalia Bans Christmas Celebrations

The government of Somalia has issued a ban on Christmas and New Year's celebrations in the Muslim country, saying the festivities "have nothing to do with Islam."

"We warn against celebration of Christmas, which is only for Christians," Sheikh Mohamed Kheyrow, director of Somalia's ministry of religion, said on state radio. "This is a matter of faith. The Christmas holiday and its drum beatings have nothing to with Islam."

SEE ALSO: Saudi cleric wants to ban Christmas for Muslims

He said the ministry has sent letters to the police, national security intelligence and officials in the capital Mogadishu instructing them to "prevent Christmas celebrations."

The announcement had echoes of Islamist militants al Shabaab, which controlled the capital Mogadishu until 2011. Among their edicts was to ban Christmas celebrations.

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Somali government bans Christmas celebrations
A prisoner looks through the bars of her cell during a Christmas decorating contest at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Each cell of 50 women or more also put on a skit dramatizing Biblical stories, with many depictions of Jesus' life, as well as David and Goliath and Daniel in the lionsâ den, giving prisonâs would-be thespians their chance to shine. Voices soared in rapture with the religious songs, and many, many tears were shed. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Prisoners perform during a Christmas decorating contest inside their cell at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. All of the 531 inmates at the Nelson Hungria prison has her own concrete bunk bed, and the spacious cinderblock cells were free of the overpowering stench, thick clouds of mosquitoes and troops of roaches that are a usually a staple of lockups here. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Prisoners stand in front a painting of Jesus, that has real hair donated by a prisoner, and the word "Acquitted" written in Portuguese, after performing in a Christmas decorating contest inside their cell at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Inmates, overwhelming black and mixed-race women who are serving time for offenses from burglary to homicide, spent weeks decking out the cell blocks with holiday decorations they made themselves from the objects they have access to behind bars. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
A prisoner dressed as Santa Claus sits on a bed during a Christmas decorating contest inside the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Christmas trees were made from strips of green plastic from one-liter soda bottles; the presents below out of empty milk cartons swathed in tissue paper. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Prisoners perform during a Christmas decorating contest inside their pavillion at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Inmates, overwhelming black and mixed-race women who are serving time for offenses from burglary to homicide, spent weeks decking out the cell blocks with holiday decorations they made themselves from the objects they have access to behind bars. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
The word "Sorry" is written in Portuguese on a bunk bed at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Brazil is notorious for its woeful prisons, which have long been blasted by human rights groups for rampant overcrowding and inhumane conditions. Prison riots break out regularly. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Prisoners perform during a Christmas decorating contest inside their cell at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Each cell of 50 women or more also put on a skit dramatizing Biblical stories, with many depictions of Jesus' life, as well as David and Goliath and Daniel in the lionsâ den, giving prisonâs would-be thespians their chance to shine. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Prisoners perform during a Christmas decorating contest inside the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Prison director Ana Gabriela Rosa Maia says the event, now in its sixth year, helped turn the penitentiary around. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Carina Barbosa performs as Santa Claus inside the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Barbosa, a 29-year-old whoâs serving time for drug trafficking, was one of more than 500 inmates ringing in the holidays Thursday at Rio de Janeiro's Nelson Hungria prison with Passion plays and a cell decorating contest. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
A prisoner performs during a Christmas decorating contest inside the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Wreathes fashioned out of the aluminum plates that prison-issue meals are served in bedecked the walls, and the floors of the cell blocks were sprinkled with a light snowfall of ground up Styrofoam. Tropical heat-resistant snowmen were fashioned out of white plastic cups. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
A prisoner watches other prisoners perform during a Christmas decorating contest inside their cell at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Inmates, overwhelming black and mixed-race women who are serving time for offenses from burglary to homicide, spent weeks decking out the cell blocks with holiday decorations they made themselves from the objects they have access to behind bars.(AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Prisoner smiles after performing during a Christmas decorating contest inside their cell at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Cleanliness was one of the criteria that the jury, made up of directors from area prisons, evaluated each of the nine cells on. Inmates from the winning cells scored prizes from coveted name-brand hair products to plastic stationary fans to a 21-inch flat-screen TV. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Prisoners inside sit in their cell during a Christmas decorating contest at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Inmates, overwhelming black and mixed-race women who are serving time for offenses from burglary to homicide, spent weeks decking out the cell blocks with holiday decorations they made themselves from the objects they have access to behind bars. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Prisoners stand in front a painting of Jesus before a Christmas decorating contest inside their cell at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Inmates, overwhelming black and mixed-race women who are serving time for offenses from burglary to homicide, spent weeks decking out the cell blocks with holiday decorations they made themselves from the objects they have access to behind bars.(AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Prisoner Adriele Cesar, 21, dressed as Jesus posses for a photo after a Christmas decorating contest inside her cell at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Cesar, who was has already spent three Christmases behind bars on a murder conviction, said the holidays were the hardest time of year for many of her fellow inmates. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
A prisoner dressed as a lion stands amid other prisoners after performing in a Christmas decorating contest inside her cell at the Nelson Hungria prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Each cell of 50 women or more also put on a skit dramatizing Biblical stories, with many depictions of Jesus' life, as well as David and Goliath and Daniel in the lionsâ den, giving prisonâs would-be thespians their chance to shine. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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It was not immediately clear what prompted the government announcement. Somalia is almost entirely Muslim, but it hosts thousands of African Union (AU) peacekeepers, including from the majority-Christian countries Burundi, Uganda and Kenya.

The country, which is struggling to emerge from two decades of fighting and chaos, has also seen a growing number of Somalis returning from Europe and North America, sometimes bringing foreign traditions and attitudes with them.

Officials also said that Christmas celebrations may attract attacks from the Islamist militants al Shabaab.

"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."

Last Dec. 25, al Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on the main AU base in Mogadishu, which lasted several hours and left three peacekeepers and a civilian contractor dead.

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