By Raheel Raza
The last time I wrote a column about saying “Merry Christmas” without feeling guilty was a few years ago and I recall noting in conclusion that I hope I don’t have to write this again because the message is loud and clear. Alas political correctness has become a Canadian epidemic and with politicians still shying away from using the word, we have no role models left.
To acknowledge that I love this time of the year and that I have already been an active participant in the launch of the Christmas season is redundant, to say the least. I use the word “Christmas” with feeling since I’ve recently celebrated my own festival of Eid , wished my Hindu and Sikh friends a delightful Diwali, and my Jewish friends a Happy Hannukah. Therefore, I feel we should have absolutely no qualms about wishing our Christian friends a “Merry Christmas” on their day of joy.
Just to to think that in the year 2010, when Canada is fast set to become the most pluralistic country in the world, we’re avoiding saying “Merry Christmas.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but pluralism doesn’t mean minimizing the celebrations of the majority but being inclusive about everyone’s festivals. We know that every minority celebrates with full gusto, taking time off work with pay and having their kids take time of school without any qualms. In fact, employers have to accommodate minority faiths.
But when it comes to Christmas, the story is different. A huge corporation (one of the largest in Canada) sent out a memo to its employees giving them guidelines on how to enjoy the holiday. The guidelines tell them not to use the word “Merry Christmas” lest they offend someone who doesn’t celebrate.
My fellow Canadians, allow me to express what’s offensive. Poverty is offensive; it’s insulting to live in luxury while your neighbor is starving and I respect the many charitable aspects of Christmas. Racism and discrimination are offensive and asking Christians to ignore Christmas is akin to reverse discrimination. What is truly offensive and extremely troubling is the persecution of Christians in some Muslim lands. This year Pakistani Christians are protesting the inhumane sentencing of a Christian woman, Asiya Bibi, on trumped up charges of blasphemy. While I stand in solidarity for their protest, I would like to see Canadians speak out for freedom to openly rejoice in their festival of joy. Muzzling the voices of those who wish to celebrate the best of the season and wish everyone a Merry Christmas is excessive. So what if this is not your festival – “Merry Christmas” is a greeting, not a slur, so get over your personal pettiness and become part of the cultural festivities.
A fear expressed by some grouches is that somehow children of non-Christian immigrants will be swept away by Christmas. Are parents so insecure in their own faiths that they can’t tolerate someone else’s cultural heritage or faith? Especially when we have total freedom in Canada to practice our own faith, celebrate it, hold conferences in public places, build numerous places of worship, get funding for our festivals, have public display of our icons and take public holidays? There’s something wrong with this picture.
So for Pete’s sake, leave Christmas alone. (By the way I don’t really know who Pete is but I’m told we can’t use the G word). Trying to change the rituals and values of the host country or change the name of their major celebration isn’t conducive to good manners, neighborliness, or tolerance.
Therefore I suggest we stop pussy-footing around, and start calling Christmas by its real name once and for all – and puleeeze let’s not have to do this lesson again next year! I still have to write a few dozen cards and deliver some more gifts.
So Merry Christmas and good cheer, from a Merry Muslim.
Raheel Raza is a leading Muslim reformer, award winning writer, professional speaker, diversity consultant, documentary film maker and interfaith advocate. A founding member of the Muslim Canadian Congress, she is the author of Their Jihad . . . Not My Jihad. Visit her site at RaheelRaza.com.