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Christmas and Eid Al Adha

Sunday December 24, 2006

Barbara Hartley

This year we will celebrate two of the major religious festivals within a few days of each other. While the Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus always falls on the 25th day of December, the Muslim festival of Eid Al Adha, celebrating Abraham?s sacrifice, moves forward each year depending on when the new moon is sighted. This year the new moon will be seen sometime at the end of December and will herald Eid Al Adha, known colloquially as the Big Eid, and so important in the Islamic world. So why, when we are trying to promote multi-culturalism in Britain, do we not hear more about the Eid?

In the Muslim world Eid Al Adha is a day of great joy, just like Christmas. Everyone wishes each other Eid Mubarakk ? or happy Eid ? and the family meal, consisting of goat or lamb, is shared between family, friends and the poor. If you happen to be in Arabia during the Eid you may well be included in this sharing; you will certainly be wished Eid Mubarekk. There will be no apology in this greeting ? no embarrassment and certainly no thought of being politically correct.

Christmas in Islamic Arabia is a joyous time. Many of the shops are decorated with baubles and tinsel, Christmas trees abound and large jovial Santas peer out from the toy department. Everyone wishes everyone else a happy Christmas; Christians are often given the day off work, and Muslims send Christmas cards to their Christian friends. While we were in Oman, one native friend even discarded his dishdasha (the long shirt) in favour of an ?English suit? in honour of the day. After we had moved back to England, three of our telephone calls on Christmas day were from Muslim friends in Muscat. They wished us a happy Christmas.

One of the social highlights of the year in Oman was the office Christmas party ? a gathering of almost all the staff with their families and friends. Hindus, Muslims and Christians all came together to celebrate the joy of Christmas and to eat together, sing Christmas carols and be merry. There was no offence given and none taken.

Here in Britain I read with surprise about companies that are so sensitive to Muslim beliefs that they ask staff to stop wishing fellow workers a happy Christmas in favour of ?season?s greetings? ? or worse still, ?winter happiness?. Even Christmas decorations are being banned.

I?m sure that those who promote such political correctness do so out of the best of intentions, but is this really what British Muslims want? It is not what our Muslim friends wanted in Arabia. None of them would dream of asking us to delete the word Christmas, and to do it on their behalf would be neither wanted nor understood. I can?t believe British Muslims are any different. Let?s be proud of Christmas and inclusive of other traditions. Let?s open our calendar to the Eid festivities.

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