In an interview with Mike Huckabee last week, Donald Trump spoke about his efforts to get store clerks to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,” and remarked: “Whether you’re Muslim, whether you’re Christian, whether you’re Jewish, everyone loves Christmas.” In a Friday sermon on December 17, however, a popular imam in Canada, Younus Kathrada, expressed a decidedly different view of how Muslims should view Christmas. Unfortunately, Kathrada is not an outlier.
Yes, it’s Christmas season, so many people ask: “Why should I not congratulate the people on this occasion?” There is no such thing as an innocent congratulation. No! Would you congratulate a fornicator? Would you congratulate a murderer? Obviously not! Would you congratulate a pedophile? Obviously not! So then how can you congratulate people for insulting Allah? Where is your love for your creator, when you approve of people insulting Allah? It is a major sin, and it is disbelief. O Allah, give strength to Islam and the Muslims, humiliate the infidels and the polytheists, destroy the enemies of religion, annihilate the heretics and the atheists. O Allah, support those who wage jihad for your sake everywhere.
Last Christmas, Ahmad Kulab of the Department for Training of Preachers in Hamas’ Ministry of Religious Endowments, declared: “We are not allowed to congratulate the Christians on their holidays. Christians must [keep] the celebration of their holidays to their homes, their houses of worship, and their churches.”
Echoing Kathrada’s words, he added: “Are we supposed to congratulate the Christians for their denial of Allah?…This culture has entered our Muslim countries and erases Islamic identity and faith. It changes the behavior of our children and contaminates their immaculate faith. In addition, the Holy Quran encourages us to dissent against the dwellers of Hellfire, the Jews and the Christians.”
Even Santa was verboten:
Santa Claus is a witty and jolly personality who hands out sweets and presents in order to influence people. This image of Santa Claus constitutes an invasion of Muslim countries, because they want to ingrain the image of Santa Claus [among Muslim]. The character of Santa Claus glorifies prominent Christians, monks who used to propagate the Holy Trinity and Christianity among Roman youth, giving out presents, sweets, and so on….If [a Christian] says to me: “Happy holidays!,” I can reply with something general, and say: “May you be happy, too.” But I say that we do not even have to say this. Even if they congratulate us, we do not have to answer them. We can remain silent. That is better for us, in order to avoid falling into sin, as the Islamic scholars said.
Zakir Naik, an Islamic preacher and apologist who is renowned among Muslims worldwide, agreed: “When you are wishing Merry Christmas to them, you are agreeing that he is the son of God and that is Shirk [sin]. Because they believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God….Is saying Merry Christmas wrong? I am telling you it is wrong. It is 100% wrong according to me….If you don’t know what Christmas stands for and happen to wish someone, Allah may forgive you. If you drink alcohol, mistaking it for Pepsi, Allah may forgive you. But if you are doing it to build a relationship after knowing what Christmas stands for, you are building your place in Jahannam [Hell].” A Muslim cleric in Germany put it more succinctly: “Christmas is an insult to Allah!”
These teachings spread worldwide. Last Christmas in Indonesia, an Islamic preacher, Imam Syuhada Al Iskandar Binmadhi, circulated a poster attributing various natural disasters to the fact that some Indonesians were celebrating the Christian holy day: “Why are there so many natural disasters after Christmas?” Also last Christmas in France, a young Muslim named Nabil celebrated Christmas with his family and happily posted photos of the celebrations online. Soon after the photos went up, a classmate contacted Nabil and told him he was “shocked” that he had celebrated Christmas. His schoolmate added a threat: “I’ll show you what a real Arab is.”
The two agreed to meet to talk it over, but as Nabil was on his way, he was attacked and beaten by five men. They warned him not to go to the police or they would give him even worse. He went to the police anyway; at a hearing, his classmate explained his behavior in simple terms: “It is not Muslim to celebrate Christmas.”
Trump’s more generous vision of Muslims’ view of Christmas is unfortunately not shared by all too many Muslims worldwide. Christians in many Muslim countries are hoping that Christmas day will pass quietly, without violence from those who believe that the day is a manifestation of sin and thus angers Allah. We can only hope.