In an interview last November, Saudi cleric Khaled Al-Felaij said Muslims are forbidden from greeting Christians and Jews on their holidays. He labeled Jews and Christians as infidels and explained that their celebration were “based upon falsehood, heresy, and polytheism,” and that it was haram for Muslims to celebrate this, to greet those who celebrate this, or to give or accept presents from such infidels.
Al-Felaij is not alone, another famous cleric Mohamad Al-Arefe (with 16.4 million followers on Twitter) has issued and tweeted similar fatwa. Other clerics, not just in Saudi Arabia, but also in many Muslim countries advocate the same views. I certainly heard similar views in Egypt. The same clerics and thousands of their followers, however, will shudder in anger if anyone ___ rightly___ points to them that those views are remarkably similar to what the Islamic State and other radical Jihadi groups believe.
Moreover, these clerics fail to see how such intolerant views breeds hatred among Muslims towards non-Muslims, and it also creates a deep torment inside many pious Muslims living in the West who are trying to integrate in their societies while maintaining their religion. Considering their non-Muslim neighbors and colleagues as infidels that should not be greeted during this festive time will only alienate Muslims and make them vulnerable to being recruited by terror groups.
Needless to mention, such intolerant views are embarrassing to the Saudi Royal family, which is trying to deal with radical terror groups flourishing inside the Kingdom. The Saudi Kingdom is trying to modernize the country, but that will not happen without uprooting intolerance from its religious doctrine. A country that considers others in bulk as evil, not just different, is doomed to failure___ rather than progress.
Let’s be clear, greeting others during festive times is simply what it is, a greeting; not a conversion or an embrace. There are millions who put a Christmas tree in their homes for non-religious reasons, only to bring some heartfelt festivities to the end of the year.
Infantilizing Islam is the biggest tragedy of the Muslim world. There is more to Islam than who should be greeted and what tree to be ignored. The Islamic faith has a deeper, mature side that is deliberately sidelined by advocates who have thinking that trivializes a great religion. Furthermore, Muslim scholars have to stop their duplicitous approach towards Islam, citing verses of tolerance when it suits and then taking other verses to spread intolerance when it suits. Enough!
Meanwhile, I have happily decided to defy all the clerics of hatred and wish my Christian and Jewish friends happy Christmas and happy Hanukkah.
May peace and tolerance prevail in our dark grim world.