Christmas is a feast for everyone
2017-12-15 16:45:00 -

Mohammed Samaana

Mohammed SamaanaThe holiday season – or the parties and drinking season, as some prefer to call it – is upon us again, with all the excitement and the happiness that it brings. And of course not to forget the Christmas adverts that tell us to keep visiting the shops again and again. 


One ad in particular brought a new type of excitement with it. The Tesco Christmas advert brought a headache to some of those still to join us in the 21st century due to its message of inclusiveness and respect to diversity. Apparently, some were angered as the commercial aimed at every section of society, even including a scene with a Muslim family holding Christmas gifts.


Clearly, Tesco’s main aim was to maximise sales and profits. However, it’s also clear those who objected to Muslims in the advert would object to Muslims anywhere, as the same advert included scenes of other non-Christians, such as a man in a Sikh turban having a Christmas dinner. 


Those other things did not seem to anger them so much, as they suffer from a nasty condition called Islamophobia. Their message is that Muslims are not welcome here. It is worth a mention that those who hold such views are a minority. But unfortunately, they are a growing minority that thrives on ‘fake news’.


While non-Christians do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, in this part of the world it is generally a secular festive season for everyone to enjoy. They live in a historically Christian society, and celebrating Christmas is an important part of its traditions and culture.


I’m a Muslim and I have always looked forward to Christmas time. I enjoy Christmas lights, which I pay for in taxes and rates. I enjoy a taste of Christmas pudding, and I have also taken part in Secret Santa. As well as that, it is a party season which I personally enjoy and look forward to every year. As far as I know, going out during Christmas time is not an exclusive right for Christians.


In my country of birth, where the majority are Muslims who fast for Ramadan and celebrate the Eids of Fitr and Adha, the Christian minority enjoy the same atmosphere, and take part in making and eating the same seasonal foods such as qatayef (sweet dumplings) and ma’amoul (small pastries or biscuits with dates and nuts). When my employer in Jerusalem organised Christmas dinner for the staff, Muslims and Christians would sit and eat together. They would also wish each other a happy feast celebration whenever it was the time to celebrate the feast of any faith, in that way learning more about each other’s cultural differences.


If we could do it in a place depicted here with such sectarian tensions, then it shouldn’t be so hard for the people of Ireland and the UK to embrace our differences.

Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast.


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