DO Muslims hate Christmas?

I remember singing hymns and Christmas carols at school morning assembly. I remember going to church at Easter and Christmas.

And I remember receiving gifts at Christmas from my parents and family. Nothing unusual for a child to experience, except that my parents were devout Sunni Muslims.

That’s why I find it strange when I now see Muslims being condemned by their imams for going to Christmas parties, putting up Christmas trees or even for saying “Merry Christmas”.

I have fond memories of taking an active part in celebrating Christmas. All these things that go with this time of the year gave me a broader outlook and a more tolerant foundation.

When I was growing up, first in England and then in Scotland, we always celebrated Christmas as a holiday with a traditional dinner of turkey and all the trimmings. “When in Rome...” my father would say.

When I got married I continued this tradition even though my wife was also from Pakistan. And now my children also commemorate this wonderful time of the year. And yes, we do see in the New Year with a drink or two!

However, in the wider community, religion is taking a firmer grip and things are changing. An increasing number of Muslim families now see Christmas as solely a Christian festival and imams and mullahs are warning against its celebration.

The orthodoxy of Sunni and Shia fears that accepting Christmas will make their children Christian, so therefore shun Christmas as having no Muslim tradition. Moreover, some Muslims now believe that even to say Merry Christmas makes them a disbeliever.

But anyone who understands the Quran will find no support for the intolerance against Christmas that the imams preach. Theirs is a separatist agenda aimed at keeping religious communities isolated, separate and under control.

In contrast, the Quran promotes common values thatall people need to make communities peaceful and secure. It seeks to integrate people, irrespective of their diverse cultures. It aims to strengthen people with values that bring us all closer.

Muslims too have their festivals, the Eid after fasting in Ramadhan and the Eid that comes after the Pilgrimage to Mecca. Many Christians celebrate these with their Muslim friends and neighbours and there is never any problem.

Likewise, there should be no reason for Muslims not to celebrate a Christian festival.

This doesn’t mean they have to believe in Christian doctrine or that they have become Christian. But what it does mean is that they are integrated members of their own multi-faith communities.

Much of Muslim hatred and fear stems not from the Quran but from the spurious hadith, a corpus of traditions written 200 years after Muhammad but attributed to him. According to the hadith, Muslims should not follow the kuffar in any religious festival or imitate them by holding parties on these occasions, exchanging gifts, or taking time off work.

The Quran, however, speaks of tolerance and understanding. It clearly says not to prohibit the good things God has made lawful, and that includes celebrating with your neighbours. It also speaks of tolerance and understanding between communities.

Believers in the Quran are encouraged to live in harmony with all people from all backgrounds. That is surely a sentiment that should unite Christians, Muslims and everybody of all faiths, or none.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Paigham Mustafa
Address supplied