by Hugh Fitzgerald
This tale by Said Rezek is a story of one hyper-tolerant Muslim and his family that are meant to reassure us:
As a Muslim I like to go to Christmas markets, eat Stollen and as a child I even got presents. Surprised? That’s not the half of it.
Muslims shy away from Christmas markets as the devil shies away from holy water, so the common prejudice. Some even think that Muslims in Germany would like to rename Christmas markets winter markets or even ban them. Apart from the fact that I don’t know any Muslims who have ever made such a demand, it would make me very sad.
Notice Rezek’s language. It is the “common prejudice” of non-Muslims that Muslims shy away from Christmas markets. Why not call it simply a “belief,” instead of denigrating it as a “prejudice”? And “some even think” that Muslims would like to rename “Christmas Markets” as “winter markets”? Said Rezek can’t for the life of him figure out why anyone would think that. Many Europeans have, however, apparently concluded that Muslims do object to the very name “Christmas Market,” and, so as not to offend them, have chosen to rename these as “Winter Markets.” In Belgium alone, the Christmas Markets have become “Winter Markets” or “Winter Lands” or “Winter Fun” in Brugge, Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Hasselt. Why would they have done that, if no Muslims are offended the name “Christmas Market”?
Every year I walk through the stalls in the different cities, be it Essen, Cologne, Aachen or Munster. My wife is often on the lookout for decorations and handicrafts, while I take a closer look at the tea assortment. As Muslims, of course, we don?t indulge in mulled wine, but we both especially like the beautiful lighting, the deliciously aromatic smells and the uniquely festive mood you encounter at Christmas markets.
Stressing his interfaithfulness, with tidings of comfort and joy, Said Reek describes the delight he and his wife — a Muslim couple, forsooth! — take in the gemütlichkeit of Christmas markets in Germany, the decorations and handicrafts she favors, and the holiday teas he fancies, and the lights, the enticing smells, the festive mood — and we are obliquely being asked to believe that, as Muslim lovers of Christmas markets, the Rezeks are hardly alone.
Being a recognisable Muslim, however, not everything is great at the Christmas markets. My wife wears a headscarf and sometimes we get quite unpleasant looks. We can only guess what is going on in the minds of these people. You may be surprised to see Muslims strolling between the stalls. Yet we have many Muslim friends and acquaintances who like to go to Christmas markets.
As always, it’s the non-Muslims who are to blame — why in the world do some at the Christmas Markets give the Rezeks those “quite unpleasant looks”? Might it have something to do with the headscarf his wife wears, that some people take as a sign that the wearer is more than a “cultural” Muslim, possibly a little too devout for their tastes?
And Said Rezek should be able to guess what is in the minds of those people giving those “unpleasant looks.” It’s not hard to fathom. They’re thinking of Muslims who’ve murdered Unbelievers in London, Manchester, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Nice, Toulouse, Magnanvile, Brussels, Amsterdam, The Hague, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Malmö, Turku, Helsinki, St.Petersburg, Moscow, Beslan. They’re thinking of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, of the killers of Drummer Lee Rigby, of those who brought down the Twin Towers, the Christians and Yazidis murdered, the attacks on churches in Egypt and Pakistan. They’re thinking of the grooming gangs in the U.K. They’re remembering the 1,200 German women and girls attacked by 2,000 Muslim men in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015. They’re thinking of the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shebaab, Boko Haram, Jabhat Al-Nusra, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah. Isn’t that more than enough to explain those “quite unpleasant looks”?
My first Christmas memories date back to my childhood. My parents, who are also practicing Muslims, gave Christmas presents to me and my siblings. They knew about the customs in Germany and did not want us to feel disadvantaged when surrounded by our Christian classmates. In fact, the opposite was the case, because in the end we also received presents at the Muslim festivals of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha.
Said Rezek’s family sounds as if it consists of just possibly the most tolerant Muslims in the whole wide world. His Muslim parents gave their Muslim children Christmas presents. They had a Christmas tree. They wanted their family to fit in with Christian families. They wanted their children to fit in with their classmates. They let him act in a nativity play. That’s pretty much the story, Rezek implies, of so many Muslims in Europe. He claims that “many Muslim friends and acquaintances…. like to go to Christmas markets.” What’s all this splother about Muslims refusing to integrate? Islamophobes! Just look at my family — that’s seven people right there. Christmas trees, Christmas presents, Christmas carols — the whole works!
I have vague recollections of taking part in the nativity play in primary school. I can clearly remember though how proud of me my parents were. The performance took place in a church and they sat in the front row.
And so tolerant are his parents that they were not just accepting, but even “proud” when Said took part in a nativity play, performed in a church, to boot.
But we must ask: how many other Muslims are like the Rezeks?
A tradition that is very much alive: “O Tannenbaum” and “Kling, Gloeckchen,” not to mention “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”. Even though I do not associate any religious feelings with the texts, they conveyed a sense of security to me as a child. In my opinion, these carols are part of the general knowledge that everyone should master, regardless of whether they are Christian or not
We also sang various Christmas carols in primary, some of which I can still recite today: “O Tannenbaum” and “Kling, Gloeckchen”, not to mention “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”. Even though I do not associate any religious feelings with the texts, they conveyed a sense of security to me as a child. In my opinion, these carols are part of the general knowledge that everyone should master, regardless of whether they are Christian or not.
Mr. Rezek is certainly a spectacularly tolerant Muslim. He likes Christmas carols. He can still sing many of them, which he cherishes, but does not “associate any religious feelings with the texts.” He claims that “everyone” — not just Christians — should master these carols, as part of “general knowledge.” How many Muslims would agree? Mr. Rezek would like us to believe that he speaks for many. I’ve never come across any Muslims, in 17 years of searching online and offline, who share Rezek’s regard for carols, Christmas trees, Christmas presents. He — and his family — represent only themselves. This is what is called anecdotal evidence.
What many non-Muslims don’t know: Jesus’ birth is described in detail in the Koran. The main difference between Christians and Muslims is that Jesus is a prophet in Islam – and not the Son of God, as it is written in the Bible.
What Mr. Rezek should have written is that “the main difference between the Christian and Muslim conceptions of Jesus is that for Muslims, Jesus is not the Son of God but a prophet.” And in regarding Jesus as divine, Christians are guilty of shirk, or polytheism, in Islam one of the worst sins. Mr. Rezek did not care to share that knowledge. I’m not surprised.
And how could I forget the Secret Santa in school? Exciting was not only what gift was in the bag. It was at least as exciting which classmate gave you the gift.
By the way, Christmas memories didn’t stop at our front door. At the request of my brother, who was a true Christmas fan, our parents even set up a Christmas tree at home, which we lovingly decorated.
Some Muslims will certainly shake their heads when reading these lines, and describe this action as un-Islamic. It is indeed the case, according to a reading of Islam, that rites of other religions must not be imitated. But statements of the Prophet and verses from the Koran must be placed in the context of time and place.
“Some Muslims” will “describe this action [putting up a Christmas tree] as un-Islamic”? The Qur’an (5:3) tells all Muslims in no uncertain terms not to imitate the Unbelievers.
The Muslims have no need to imitate any of the other nations in matters of religious rituals and acts of worship, for Allaah has perfected His religion and completed His Favour, and chosen for us Islam as our religion, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):
“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Qur’an 5:3)
Islam forbids the Muslims to imitate the Kuffaar, especially the Jews and Christians, but this prohibition does not apply to all their affairs, rather it applies to matters of their religion and things that are unique to them, by which they are known.
In the Hadith Muhammad says the same thing:
“It was narrated from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “You will certainly follow the ways of those who came before you hand span by hand span, cubit by cubit, to the extent that if they entered the hole of a lizard, you will enter it too.” We said: “O Messenger of Allaah, (do you mean) the Jews and the Christians?” He said: “Who else?” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1397; Muslim, 4822.
This hadeeth indicates that it is haraam to imitate the Jews and the Christians, and that those who follow them and tread the same path as them are criticized. Islam has reinforced this prohibition, by describing those who imitate the kuffaar as being of them.
It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” Narrated by Abu Dawood, 3512.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
“This at the very least indicates that it is haraam to imitate them, although the apparent meaning is that the one who imitates them is a kaafir.”
So all of that imitating of Christians at Christmas time by Rezek’s family — his taking part in the nativity play (and making his parents “proud”), the Christmas tree, the giving of presents, the delight taken at those Christmas markets — all this for Muslims is unambiguously haram, forbidden. Rezek might have written that “I am well aware that for almost all Muslims our family’s participation in the celebration of Christmas is unacceptable.” But he didn’t do so, because he wants Unbelievers to take his own family’s behavior not as exceptional, but as representative. I have no doubt that some Muslims do like to visit, as he claims, Christmas markets, but how many of these exceptions are there? And how many Muslims give Christmas presents and have Christmas trees? If there were more than a scarcely discernible handful, wouldn’t we have heard of them by now?
As a Muslim in Germany in the 21st century, life is of course different than in the early seventh century in Mecca or Medina, when the Koran was revealed. And to make children happy was, then as now, a matter of course.
Life in 21st century Germany is certainly different from life in 7th century Mecca and Medina. But the Qur’an and Hadith remain unchanged. The Qur’anic command (5:51) “not to take Jews and Christians as friends, for they are friends only with each other” — is still there. Unchanged, too, is the Qur’anic command (5:3) not to imitate the Unbelievers in any matters connected to religion, for otherwise a Muslim becomes an Unbeliever himself.
These days I’m a father myself and I like to mark the festive season of Christmas. My wife and I will give presents to our daughter and spend the Christmas holidays together.
This year my wife has decorated the flat a little with fir cones. What could be nicer than eating delicious Christmas biscuits or Stollen with your family? With this in mind, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
The only thing missing in the Rezek Christmas, it seems, are Christmas cards. Muslims, of course, are forbidden to send them.
All the Muslim websites proclaim rules about Christmas which the Rezek family ignores almost in their entirety:
It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by celebrating it
It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by sending Christmas cards
It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by buying Christmas presents
It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by wishing others Merry Christmas
It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by going to and holding Christmas parties
It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by singing Christmas songs
It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by telling your kids about a fictional figure like Santa Claus
It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by doing secret Santa
Said Rezek apparently observes only two of these prohibitions: he doesn’t wish others “Merry Christmas” and he doesn’t send Christmas cards. Otherwise, he and his family are as “haraam” as can be.
Please take it on faith, from Said Rezek himself, that Muslims all over the world are just as enlightened and tolerant as his family apparently is. Isn’t his anecdotal evidence enough? Forget your worries and your doubts. Forget what all the imams declare, and what all the Jihadis threaten. Forget the 109 verses in the Qur’an commanding violent Jihad against the Unbelievers. Forget the more than 33,400 terror attacks by Muslims since 9/11. Ignore Muhammad’s claim that “I have been made victorious through terror.” Pay no attention to the Qur’anic verse (98:6) that describes Unbelievers as “the most vile of creatures.” None of that matters. There’s a Muslim family, over in Germany, that puts up a Christmas tree, learns Christmas carols, and gives Christmas presents to family members.That’s what really counts.
Said Rezek wants to accentuate the positive. There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. And just think — he’s shown us that at least seven of those 1.5 billion Muslims, that is, Said Rezek, his wife, his daughter, his parents, and his two siblings, cheerfully embrace the Christmas holiday. They have Christmas trees. They take part in nativity plays. As children, Said and his siblings were given Christmas presents, a tradition he continues with his own child. He and his wife love to visit, and buy things at, Christmas Markets. That’s all meant to be heartwarming.
But such anecdotal evidence is ludicrous. This reassurance based on a single Muslim family’s experience is wildly misleading. If Said Rezek could offer up examples of millions, or even thousands, of Muslims who feel the same way as he claims his family does about Christmas, we might be more impressed. No such evidence is offered.
Meanwhile, in the Islamic world, Christians are still being attacked, in their churches, returning from pilgrimages, in their shops, on the street. In 2003, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq; now there are 200,000. Two Scandinavian girls were decapitated in mid-December in Morocco, for the crime of being Unbelievers. Christians will forever be considered as guilty of the sin of polytheism, or shirk, for believing in the divinity of Jesus. Whatever Said Rezek may think, the Qur’an is crystal clear: “fight the Unbelievers wherever you find them,” “smite at their necks,” “strike terror in their hearts.”
Said Rezek offers a vivid example of those Muslims who want us to believe that in their embrace of the outward and visible aspects of Christmas, they are not the exception but the rule.
Tidings of comfort and joy? Not so fast. Not until we hear respected imams — at least by the hundreds — proclaim from their pulpits that Muslims can put up Christmas trees, sing Christmas carols, give Christmas presents, without being considered Kuffars. And so far, not a single one has done so.
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