CAIRO - As the Christmas season approaches, US Muslims are decorating their homes for the special ceremony seen as an opportunity to teach kids about the role of Prophet Jesus in Islam as well as helping them feel included in the society.
"I think there are a lot of Muslims that celebrate Christmas, but they do it quietly. We believe in not leading that double life," Ani Zonneveld, 49-year-old practicing Muslim, told Huffington Post.
For Zonneveld, a Muslim Christmas would be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ same as they celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
"Celebrating Christmas is not really a contradiction to Islam because Jesus is our prophet, too," she added.
Over the past four years, Zonneveld, a singer-songwriter who was born in Malaysia and co-founded a national network called Muslims for Progressive Values, used to invite her Muslim friends in Los Angeles for a festive Christmas party.
During such festivities, her guests mingle over shiny red and white desserts while kids craft tree ornaments for the family's brightly lit evergreen.
She also teaches her 13-year-old daughter and family friends on the role of Jesus in Islam.
During this years' party, parents talked with their kids about the "similarities and differences between the Islamic and Christian Jesus," to teach them that Islam is "not all about Muhammad."
Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.
In the Noble Qur'an, Jesus is called "Isa". He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).
As for his crucifixion, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but was lifted up to heaven.
Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth before the end of time to restore peace and order, fight the Anti-Christ (Al-Masih Al-Dajjal) and bring victory for truth and righteousness.
The true followers of Jesus will prevail over those who deny him, misrepresent him and reject him.
For some US Muslims, the holiday is a time to teach kids about their religion and how to respect other religions.
"I look at it from a cultural tolerance perspective. We live in a society that's diverse," Shireen Ahmed, a 34-year-old social worker and mother of four who lives in the Toronto suburbs, said.
Though Ahmed does not celebrate Christmas at home, she says she is "open and interested" in the idea.
Recently, she used the Christmas season as a chance to talk about Jesus to her 7-year-old.
"I explained the Holy Trinity, and my son said 'What do you mean? Allah doesn't have a father or son.' I said "that's what we believe, but others don't and you have to respect that," she said.
In recent years, she has observed Christmas by attending Catholic Midnight Mass at the invitation of friends.
"I love the Mass, I find it inspiring and uplifting," says Ahmed, who doesn't have a Christmas tree or decorations but does let her young children take photos with Santa.
"I'm not accepting of Jesus as the Son of God, I don't take communion, but I will attend, I will respect, and I will kneel when they kneel."
The cultural interaction with non-Muslims was also another important aspect for US Muslim Christmas celebrations.
"It would be typical of mosques to have a sermon on Jesus at this time of year, praising him as one of the great prophets but distinguishing Muslim belief from Christian belief, as Muslims must believe and love Jesus Christ as a prophet and Messiah," says Ihsan Bagby, an Islamic Studies professor at the University of Kentucky who researches American mosques.
"But in terms of practice and observation of Christmas, that's an on-going debate among Muslims."
Nouman Safi, a 34-year-old filmmaker who lives in Chicago and has four elementary school-aged kids, says he uses the holiday to talk to coworkers and Christian friends about his Islamic beliefs.
"I have spoken to many Christian Americans who have no idea that we believe in Jesus and that we believe he is the savior. We believe will come back and unite everyone together," says Safi.
"I say to them, 'I hope you know he is as holy to us as he is to you. We don't believe he is the Son of God, but he is a very important prophet.'"
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net