Saturday, December 19, 2015

There is No Muslim War on Christmas

During the years I worked as a community advocate for Muslim organizations, I often listened to conservative talk radio.  In early 2003, while listening to one of the local hosts, I decided to call in to counter the misinformation being said about Muslims. I did get through. I did counter with facts and statistics. The host disconnected the call and said, on air, that the screener would be fired if I ever got through again.

For the rest of the year, the host attacked me, personally, almost every day. Any commentary against Muslims included my name. [Barry Young, KFYI 550AM, retired]

By December, the hot topic was the War on Christmas – somehow the Muslims were the cause, and I was the poster child for the anti-Christmas movement.

You've been had. There is no Muslim War on Christmas.

Muslims as a whole are not advocating, and have never advocated, against Christmas celebrations. That is not to say a small number of Muslim clerics and government officials have not made exclusive or hateful statements - but then, the same can be said about the rhetoric from some religious leaders and politicians in the United States, past and present.

Muslims may not celebrate Christmas as part of our religion, but that does not mean Muslims are, by definition, opposed to others celebrating it. In fact, some Muslims actually participate in the culture of Christmas themselves.

A few facts about Muslims and Christmas

Christmas in Baghdad, Iraq
1) Some Muslims have Christmas trees in their homes and Christmas decorations inside and outside their homes. They consider it cultural rather than religious.  The inclusion of the symbols may or may not include Christmas gift exchanges. Santa Clause is often referred to as "Noel" with some local words added to it (i.e. "Baba Noel" = "father Noel")

2) Some Muslims have inter-religious families, which include Christians and Jews, so they may have those religious symbols in their homes as well as visit family and friends on the holidays themselves.

3) Some Muslims do not personally participate in the symbols or festivities but the vast majority have no problem with those of other faiths celebrating their faith.

4) Muslims generally have no problem wishing “Merry Christmas” to people who participate in  Christmas. 
Christmas tree in Byblos, Lebanon

Muslims do have the same struggles as everyone else of not knowing who does or does not celebrate Christmas – thereby sometimes saying “Happy Holidays” in order to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

5) Several majority Muslim countries recognize Christmas Day as a public holiday.

6) Many Arabic Christmas carols exist. More. More. More. More
Christmas in Malaysia

There are about 54 majority Muslim countries in the world and only about 17 total countries in the Middle East, not all majority Muslim. 

The truth is, several majority Muslim countries display Christmas trees and symbols in public spaces. I have done the work for you if you are interested in seeing pictures or reading more about Christmas as reflected in some majority Muslim countries.

Abu DhabiAlbania, Algeria/Algiers, AzerbaijanDubai, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, IranIraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, LibyaMalaysia, Maldives, Morocco, NigeriaOman, Pakistan, Qatar, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Syria, Tajikistan, The Gambia, Tunisia, The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Turkey, Turkmenistan,  Uzbekistan

Are some Muslims offended by Christmas? The reality is yes, and they are not alone. There are other groups who are offended for various reasons that have little to do with Christianity itself (i.e. materialism, separation of church and state). But among Muslims, being offended by others celebrating Christmas is an extreme minority.

Santa balloons in Pakistan
As for my radio host troll, on Christmas Eve, after days of hounding by him about Muslims and me being anti-Christmas, I purchased a tin of cookies from Cookies From Home that said "Merry Christmas" and had every symbol associated with Christmas that I could glue on it. I drove to the station to deliver it, but it was a skeleton crew and no one was there to open the door. So I called one of the reporters from the station that I knew and asked if he could arrange the delivery of my gift to the radio host. He came through within the hour.

The host never acknowledged my Christmas gift on the air or in any other way.

He also never mentioned me again, derogatory or otherwise.  

And that, my friends, is how to respond to negativity.

Christmas display in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Christmas in Dubai

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