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Xmas Divides American Muslims

Published: 25/12/2013 04:47:51 PM GMT
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CAIRO – As Christmas season falls in America, a recurrent debate reignites about celebrating the holiday by the Muslim community, with second and third generations tending to share their neighbors and friends the festivities. I'm against celebrating Christmas because I don't want to confuse my kids, local Dearborn resident Nadeen Fasi,...(more)

CAIRO – As Christmas season falls in America, a recurrent debate reignites about celebrating the holiday by the Muslim community, with second and third generations tending to share their neighbors and friends the festivities.

"I'm against celebrating Christmas because I don't want to confuse my kids," local Dearborn resident Nadeen Fasi, who was born and raised in the US, told Illume Magazine on Wednesday, December 25.

Fasi said that her husband do not engage their three children in any Christmas traditions, focusing on raising them according to the Islamic teachings.

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“We do believe that Jesus was a prophet, but at the same time the whole idea of Christmas and the Christmas tree does not fall into our Islamic beliefs,” she added.

For her, Christmas was not the only national holiday she keeps her children away from. In Halloween too, she said that her three children were the only kids in the class who did not wear costume.

Therefore, she was keen on making Muslim feasts and holidays more festive for her kids.

"When Eid comes along, they get a ton of gifts and the house is decorated with lights. I tell our kids that we don't celebrate Christmas because it’s not our holiday and they completely accept that," Fasi adds.

"I'm not against anybody else celebrating each their own. I'm just trying to raise my kids to know their heritage and to know the Arabic culture. How would I expect them to know the Arabic culture if they are conforming to other cultures?"

Unlike Fasi, Amal Hammoud Berry, another Dearborn resident and mother of two, says that she is usually judged for engaging in Christmas traditions with her family.

"I don't appreciate this mentality that some try to force on us when we've lived with 'Merry Christmas' all these years in Dearborn. I've been celebrating Christmas since I was a child,” she said.

“My parents were immigrants and they barely spoke English, but they took me to see Santa every year. I don't see anything wrong with it. It's supposed to be the birth of Jesus and we consider him a prophet," Berry says.

Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7 to 8 million Muslims.

Christmas is the main festival on the Christian calendar. Its celebrations reach its peak at 12:00 PM on December 24 of every year.

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).

Religious Leaders Too

The debates about celebrating Christmas were to limited to Muslim residents, extending to religious leaders of the Muslim community as well.

"No, it's not haram to have a Christmas tree because we believe in Jesus and we believe in his great message,” Sheik Abdul Latif Berry, leader of the first Muslim Marja'iya, or religious authority, in the US, told Illume.

“This was a great messenger who came from God and he anticipated and told people that prophet Muhammad would be the seal of prophets. It is very important to connect these two occasions together," Berry says.

While some Christian sects may debate whether or not Jesus was born around Christmas time, Abdel Latif Berry says Islam's alignment of his birth is in the same time frame of what most Christians believe.

"We believe that Jesus was born around this time or close to this time, but regardless of that debate, it shouldn't be a problem for us,” Sheikh Berry said.

“If there is more than one idea out there regarding his birth, we should be able to share it with all sects of Christianity with no problems. I think it's fine if Muslims have a Christmas tree or share this happy occasion with Christians. It is not a problem at all."

Imam Mohammad Elahi, leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, said that Christmas has turned into a more cultural and commercial event rather than a religious one.

"Christmas has lost its spirit and this is why we see that there is more alcohol abuse and accidents during this time of the year," Imam Elahi said.

“It has become a commercial holiday with over consumption of eating and drinking. If this is the season of Jesus' birth, then we should see more healing and more peace.”

Elahi encourages the community to wish local Christians a 'Merry Christmas,' but says Muslims should be donating money to charitable causes instead of getting caught up in the secular aspect of the Christmas holiday.

Over the last decade, the term "Merry Christmas" has been phased out in favor of "Happy Holidays" to appeal to a variety of religions or even those who chose to only celebrate the new year.

"It's okay to take advantage of vacation time and use it to get close to your families and show more love and forgiveness. But to go to the extreme and use it on unnecessary shopping that wastes your money, that is not okay whether it is Christmas or any other season," Elahi adds.

"There are so many people suffering in other parts of the world. I think it would be better to turn this season into a season of charity and provide whatever support you can for refugees, rather than waste it on decorations and shopping."

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