Muna Al Fuzai

Christmas is round the corner, and as usual, I have received messages and warnings on social media not to exchange any joyful gestures or greetings that reflect happiness on this important event for our Christian friends. Everything has been labeled as haram (unlawful in Islam). Muslims are not supposed to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or smile at anyone who happens to be a Christian.

There are two reasons given for this – first, that this is not our celebration and is a Western ritual that has nothing to do with Islam. The second is that we should be mourning the death of people in the Arab world instead of expressing joy. I am stunned by these calls and messages on social media that associate every act with the term haram. During our Islamic holidays, such as Eid, many of my Christian friends and readers shower me with emails and messages wishing me and my family. Should I counter them with the term ‘haram’?

Christmas is a festival of joy that revolves around decorating Christmas trees, Santa Claus, candles and snowmen, although every country has its own rituals. For example in Japan, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is considered the traditional meal on Christmas, since the launch of the “Kentucky Festival of Christmas” campaign in 1974. Japan is not a Christian nation, but adopted this tradition from the Western world.

Christmas is considered one of the most important festivals for Christians after Easter. So it’s natural to associate it with religious ceremonies and private prayers. Large numbers of non-Christians also celebrate this festival. I see no harm in it and I enjoy it too. It is a great feeling to let yourself be a kid again and enjoy the holiday spirit – whether it’s by leaving cookies and clogs by the fireplace for Santa in this cold weather. It makes you experience the spirit of magic and joy.

While all European countries are preparing to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, it’s a different issue in Arab countries. Many countries forbid Christmas and New Year celebrations, and warn the public against doing so. I love Christmas in the UAE. Major hotels and shopping malls in Dubai and Abu Dhabi celebrate Christmas by setting up Christmas trees and Santa figures.

Of course, children always enjoy the biggest share of the celebrations by receiving gifts from everyone. But it is not always rosy. Many Islamic states prohibit the celebration and have penalties that may reach up to imprisonment. Kuwait is a little conservative over celebrating these festivals, but it doesn’t interfere with the celebrations. Of course, it is nothing compared to the celebrations in Dubai.

Some Muslim scholars rush to issue fatwas for people to avoid expressing or sharing the joy of such festivals. Some have even said that the celebration of Christmas is against Islamic identity. I have joined my Christian friends in these celebrations for years, and I’m still a Muslim. I cannot see any negativity in it. There are other religious men who do not see any harm in these celebrations.

So to all my Christian friends and readers – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

By Muna Al-Fuzai
muna@kuwaittimes.net