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24th Dec 2016

What Muslims really think of Christmas and the festive period

Spoiler alert: They love it

Nooruddean Choudry

Muslims, eh? Aren’t they just the worst.

Forget Harry and Marv, Ebenezer Scrooge, or even the Grinch – the real enemies of Christmas are them ruddy Muslamics trying to ban everything and ruin it for everyone. You can’t even wrap a pig in a blanket these days without offending ’em.

Whilst the rest of the country is getting all festive and merry to mark the birth of our Lord and Saviour the little baby Jesus, Tariq and Zara from Tunbridge Well-istan are trying to ban the Nativity, tear down the Crimbo lights, and convert Santa.

Except they’re not. Or rather we’re not. Every year it’s the same; dubious stories start to emerge all over the internet – and on the front pages of our least responsible tabloids – about how Muslims are demanding a curb to festivities.

It is utter bullshit of course. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Muslims are no more offended by Christmas as they are miffed by Eurovision or riled by Bonfire Night. It’s a delightful time of year, so what’s not to love?

Say what you like about the commercialisation of it all, but there’s something magical about this time of year. It sounds corny, but there’s something in the air – the sense of giddiness and excitement is almost tangible. It’s lovely.

That feeling is both heartwarming and infectious – and Muslim folk are not immune to it. It makes no sense to want to dilute it, or un-Christmassify Christmas. But the problem is, no one tends to ask Muslims about it – they just assume a whole lot.

Malicious memes and gossip about people of the Islamic faith spread like wildfire – yet the mythbusting clarifications don’t ripple half as far. The likes of the Sun and the Mail print poisonous headlines, followed (eventually) by the very tiniest of corrections.

What you’re left with is a dangerous and divisive narrative. Muslims clearly hate Christmas, and therefore we should find it in our hearts to hate Muslims. What’s worse is that many people spreading the lies know exactly what they’re doing – preying on ignorance and fuelling suspicion.

Liberal ‘hot takes’ on the subject don’t always help. They’re usually written by non-Muslims about Muslims, and the result is unfortunate – there’s still an us-and-them situation, with Muslims ‘examined’ and quoted like an exotic ‘other’.

But it fails to acknowledge the fact that Muslims are not really a them at all- Muslims are part of us. As a Muslim myself it is maddening to be depicted as some sort of insular and separate community requiring umbrella organisations to speak for us.

If you know Muslim people, if you’re surrounded by enough of them, you’ll be acutely aware that they – we – are ridiculously diverse in our cultures, beliefs, preferences and opinions. Ya know, a bit like non-Muslims. We’re all similarly different.

In fact if you want a sense of how unorganised and unalike Muslims are, just wait until Ramadan(adingdong) and casually ask when it ends – you’ll get about three different answers and confused mumblings about moon-sightings.

So some of us ruddy love Michael Buble, especially at this time of year – whilst others find him incredibly cheesy. A school of Islam believes Die Hard is definitely a Christmas movie, whilst another argues that it just happens to be set around Christmas.

The point is, we’re not much different from anyone else. And like the rest of the nation, we get wrapped up in the whole Christmas thing. Many folk who adore Christmas the most aren’t practicing Christians. If they love it so much, why wouldn’t Muslims?

It’s precisely why the proudest (and most embarrassing) mum at the school Nativity play is often wearing a headscarf; why neurotic Muzzies stress as much as anyone about last-minute gifts; and the reason why Elf is a seasonal staple in most of our homes.

So whenever you see a scare story about how Muslims are trying to ruin Christmas, ask yourself this: Why the fuck would we? Why would we want to spoil something that’s so beautiful? Speak to an actual Muslim and your doubts will soon be dispelled.

I for one am a Muslim who genuinely adores Christmas. I don’t put up a tree or go to Midnight Mass, but I love how it makes the world seem just a little bit less shit for a week or so. In fact the only thing I hate about Christmas is people suggesting that I hate Christmas.

But don’t just take it from me, here are a few of my Muslim pals (we all live in a big house in Bradford) on what Christmas means to them. I hope you have a beautiful Christmas and a wonderful New Year xxx

Image result for christmas

“Christmas is my favourite time of the year. All my favourite people are home and every Muslim family I know gets together to celebrate. Being a religious festival actually makes it more special, because in an age of unnecessary excess, Christmas serves as a reminder to respect and reflect – very important in the current climate, n’est-ce pas?”

Reshmin, London.

“I love Christmas. It’s the one time a year I sense there’s a collective effort by everyone to make the season festive for all. People seem friendlier, and you see a lot of kind gestures between strangers. It’s infectious, even for someone like me who doesn’t celebrate. Just don’t go to a mall – everything I just said gets thrown out at the door!”

Mohammad, Washington D.C.

“Personally I love Christmas. True we don’t celebrate it at home but I know many Muslims families who do. It’s one of those times when everyone is happy and excited despite the crappy weather. One thing that I always look forward to is buying presents for the ones I truly love and admire, mostly my lecturers, friends and also charities.

“Every Christmas I choose a different charity, ideally kids’ one. Kids deserve everything and no kid should be left out without a present.

“Christmas is a celebration, about getting together, sharing gifts, happiness and spending time with loved ones. Muslims also have Eid, but most Muslims work on Eid day or at least the day after. But on Christmas, families get together, visiting each other, etc. Christmas is more festive than Eid days tbh. :)”

Samia, Luton.

“Although a lot of Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas, per se, it’s still a wonderful time of year (as we get time off work!) but also because it’s an opportunity to build bridges between communities. It’s an excuse to give the celebrating neighbours a present and extend some love, which is so vital in such difficult times. Christmas music, however, can do one!”

Umarah, London.

“I always look forward to Christmas because everyone’s in a good mood and we get to spend some quality time with our families and loved ones. The kids love the parties at school, the Christmas lights, and the general festive atmosphere. We always enjoy exchanging gifts with the neighbours.”

Nashawan, Burnley.

“Christmas is one of my favourite times of year. It’s when the streets are packed with excitement, the markets are up and running, and it’s okay to treat yourself to more than one piece of cake. Christmas for me is a time of togetherness and all round joy.”

Abdullah, Manchester.

Mariam, Sydney.

“My family are pretty practicing, so Christmas isn’t a thing in our house lol. But we still make sure to hand out Christmas cards to the neighbours, and give a present to our neighbour who is quite elderly and a widow. This year I tried to write some extra messages in the cards after the crap year and all that’s gone on.”

Zahra, London.

“Well, this is my living room right now (below). I spent many years attending Christmas Mass with my family as their friends were Catholics (they came to ours for Eid). I have to admit I’m not a fan of turkey, but who doesn’t like a roast dinner, and munching on chocs whilst watching Die Hard?!”

Henna, Harrogate.

“Christmas at my home has traditionally been a model example of multiculturalism gone right – we get a halal turkey from the butchers, and my mum makes a special couscous stuffing to go inside. My pops loves it because it’s the one day a year we all get off to eat as a family – it’s not always the case that we can be available for Eid due to work or school commitments, and it’s worth taking any excuse to eat en famille.”

Iman, London/Paris.

“I’m a Muslim so I don’t celebrate Christmas. But the feeling of Christmas is something I miss a lot, the shoppers scurrying around, everyone in winter layers, my Mum telling us we can watch what we like as long she can watch the Corrie specials.

“After my mum passed away, my best friend Clare started inviting me to her house on Christmas day. For 10 of the last 15 years, I have been taken in, and looked after by a family that does celebrate Christmas. Food, presents, spending time with family, big open fire, talking about the past and the future.

“Living in Japan is almost like what I imagine it’s like living in a Muslim country, there are wee signs of it around but nothing much. There is no countdown for the sofa marathon, eating a brick of cheese, hitting the sales with yer pals, etc. It’s probably the only time of the year nearly everyone is off work at the same time so I get to see all my loved ones. This has made me miss Christmas even more than ever.”

Saima, Glasgow/Tokyo.

“I’ll be honest, we don’t do Christmas round ours, and for me it’s just another day. But why would I want to spoil anyone else’s fun? If you celebrate and enjoy Christmas, good for you! Have a good one!”

Qasim, Birmingham.

“My family has always celebrated Christmas as more than just a commercial holiday. We believe Islam is a continuation of both Judaism and Christianity, and I grew up respecting these religions as much as I respect my own. We embrace the Christmas spirit the same way we do with Muslim holidays.

“Since I’ve moved to Paris, Christmas time is the occasion for my sisters and I to go back home to my family who live in Côte d’Ivoire. And if by any chance, I decide to celebrate Christmas away from home I would be talked my ear off for years! Let it be storms or natural disasters, we must find a way to spend it together, my parents won’t have it any other way (I’m more than fine with that).

“Christmas time equals family time, period. From being huddled all together eating (or at least trying to eat) cakes my youngest sibling has made, to revisiting our childhood memories, which often lead to little tantrums over some questionable facts, it is impossible for me not to love and cherish Christmas.”

Rochana, Paris.