Libyan authorities ban Christmas and New Year celebrations

18 January 2022

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The Libyan Ministry of the Interior in late-December 2021 issued a warning to citizens “not to celebrate Christmas or New Year’s Eve”.

This directive follows a police warning that Christmas and New Year celebrations are not in accordance with the country’s religion (Islam).

New Year’s Eve is often wrongly perceived as a Christian festival in Islamic contexts, partly because Islam follows a different calendar with its own date for New Year.

Celebratory gatherings on New Year’s Eve were until recent years commonplace among many Libyans, and much greater toleration existed of Christians celebrating Christmas. With the emergence of hardline Islamist politics, however, the government has adopted a much more restrictive stance.

The General Directorate of Criminological Investigations in Libya instructed all restaurants and cafés not to celebrate New Year, with the threat of closure for those refusing to comply.

In a nationwide campaign initiated to confiscate Christmas decorations, Lieutenant General  Muhammad al-Obeidi, head of the government media unit, said the police were targeting decoration, gift and rose shops, where many “Christmas trees” of different shapes and sizes that were on sale were seized.

Al-Obeidi defended the seizures by stating that the items sold “do not represent our religion or our religious beliefs”, emphasising that goods associated with festivals other than the two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, were “contrary to Islamic law”.

In Benghazi Al-Kubra Ibrahim Al-Shahr, a member of the Fatwa Sub-Committee, stated that celebration of the New Year and participation in Christian holidays were forbidden.

In May 2021, the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs instructed the General Authority for Communications and Informatics to close down and ban various web pages that incite “youth to follow other religions”, or those “calling for atheism and devil’s worship”.

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