SYDNEY - A new anti-Christmas message posted by Sydney's main mosque has angered Australia Muslims who denounced it for sending a wrong message about Islam's support for peace, co-operation, respect and holding others in esteem.
"When I saw it I was quite shocked ... It just gives people the wrong impression," Keysar Trad, spokesman of the Islamic Friendship Association, told Australia Associated Press on Sunday, December 23.
"I'm happy that they are not sticking by those comments and that they are distancing themselves from them," he said.
Trad's comments were part of a greater anger that appeared in Australia Muslims comments on the latest fatwa issued by Sydney's Lakemba Mosque.
The religious ruling, which followed a similar lecture during Friday prayers at Australia's biggest mosque, was posted on its Facebook site on Saturday morning.
The head imam at Lakemba, Sheikh Yahya Safi, had told the congregation during prayers that they should not take part in anything to do with Christmas.
Muslim leaders were quick to denounce the post as damaging the true image of Islam.
A community leader, Dr Jamal Rifi, said he did not agree with the fatwa.
"We can share the festivities with friends and families and neighbors - I don't think there is any civil, religious or ethical reason not to," he told Sydney Morning Herald.
Samier Dandan, the president of the Lebanese Muslim Association told ABC television the Facebook post was a mistake by a youth officer.
"We have given him a warning," he said.
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, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
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).
Shocked by the fatwa, the Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, said the foundations of Islam were peace, co-operation, respect and holding others in esteem.
"Anyone who says otherwise is speaking irresponsibly," he told Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday.
"There is difference between showing respect for someone's belief and sharing those beliefs," Dr Ibrahim said.
Dr Ibrahim said the views did not represent the majority of Muslims in Australia.
"We are required to have good relations with all people, and to congratulate them on their joyous events is very important," he added.
Trad, a former official with the Lebanese Muslim Association, said in his time with the organisation they used to regularly greet people with merry Christmas.
"I don't know what has changed," he said.
"But now as a representative of Australia's peak Muslim body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, I would like to wish all your readers a merry Christmas and a happy new year."
He added that he was optimistic about 2013 and hoped Muslims and non-Muslims could create a "relationship based on mutual respect and cooperation".
"I think that is the only way forward for us as a nation," Trad said.