It’s beginning to look a lot like a Muslim Christmas, everywhere you go. That’s right, we are seeing an increasing number of Muslim Americans celebrating Christmas. In fact, when I posed a question on Facebook asking whether any of my Muslim friends celebrate Christmas, I was blown away by the response. I was instantly inundated with literally hundreds of posts by American Muslims—and even some in Muslim countries—detailing how they celebrate this holiday.
Many mentioned having Christmas dinner at the house of Christian friends. Even more spoke of putting up a Christmas tree each year (and sent me photos of their tree.) Many told me they exchanged Christmas gifts, while others shared that they put up Christmas lights on the outside of their house. A few even noted that they attend Christmas mass with Christian friends.
Are we just being nice? Trying to fit in more in America? Or is this a part of our dastardly plot to destroy Christianity and impose sharia law in America?
In reality, from a theological point of view, Jesus is extremely important to Muslims. The Koran states: ‘The angels said, ‘O Mary, indeed God gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, who will be a man of honor in this life and the life to come, and who will be one of the ones nearest to God.”
As New York City based Imam Shamsi Ali explained by way of email, “To Muslims, Jesus is considered one of ‘mighty’ prophets along with Moses, Abraham, Noah, and Mohammed.” Ali added, “Remembering Jesus’ birth and the teachings of Jesus is an important part of our Muslim faith.”
Linda Sarsour, one of the leaders of New York City’s Muslim community, echoed the Imam’s sentiment, saying, “Jesus is very central to Islam and is someone I take great inspiration from.” The popular Muslim American rapper, Mo Sabri, even released a song “I believe in Jesus” that speaks of the connection between Muslims and Jesus, which boasts more than one million views on YouTube.
Of course, to the Muslim haters and others on the far right, Muslims celebrating Christmas freaks them out. Apparently they think they own Christmas as well as Jesus.
Just look at the backlash Wal-Mart endured this year for selling a Muslim themed star for Christmas trees, which features a crescent moon and star. If you Google “Muslim Christmas tree star” you will see a list of right-wing websites wetting their pants over this. To be honest though, I can’t even put into words the joy I feel when these bigots get angry over this type of stuff. It’s like Christmas for me any day they get pissed.
Now to be clear, there are theological differences between the way Muslims and Chirstians view Jesus. Christians view Jesus as the Son of God. While Muslims do believe in the Virgin birth of Jesus, they view Jesus as a messenger of God. Another difference is that Muslims don’t pray to Jesus. Nor do we even pray to Mohammed as some mistakenly think. We just pray to God.
But when you objectively review the theological connections between Islam and Christianity—as well as between Islam and Judaism—you can understand why it makes me laugh when some on the right say that Muslims have their own separate God called “Allah.” I mean, it’s such an idiotic statement.
And I don’t just do a facepalm when this idiocy is said by Muslim haters. I had the same reaction when I read about a recent law in Malaysia that banned Christians from using the word “Allah” when speaking of God because to the conservative Muslim Malaysian leaders, “Allah” is exclusively the Muslim God.
That’s absolutely idiotic. Islam is an Abrahamic faith that’s intertwined with Judaism and Christianity. In fact, one the most sacred holiday for Muslims is the sacrifice of Abraham, known as Eid al-Adha. Yes, that’s the same Abraham and the same sacrifice that Jews and Christians recognize, whereby God tested Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his only son. (For those unaware of the story—spoiler alert—God doesn’t actually make Abraham sacrifice his son.)
In my case, I’ve long been aware of the common themes in Christianity and Islam. My mother is Catholic and my father is Muslim so we grew up learning about both faiths and celebrating both Muslim and Christian holidays. (And to the right wing “Christians” who say Catholics aren’t real Christians, I say in all sincerity that the Catholics I know are far more Christlike than you will ever be.)
So as Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus this week, many Muslims will be doing the very same thing to varying degrees. And while the eggnog served by the Muslims celebrating Christmas might not be spiked with brandy, the most important spirit will still be there.