Every year, with the approach of the Christian holidays, and particularly Christmas, religious rulings are published in the Arab and Muslim world prohibiting Muslims from participating in the Christian celebrations and from extending holiday greetings to Christians. In an article published in the liberal website Elaph.com on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013, Saudi author and journalist Hani Nakshabandi urged Muslims to join Christians in celebrating Christmas and attacked Muslim clerics who prohibit this. He also lamented that, while churches preach love and forgiveness, some mosques incite to hatred and killing.
Below are translated excerpts from the column:
Hani Nakshabandi (image: twitter.com/HaniNakshabandi)
"I listened to the Christmas sermon in a few churches, and they called for love and forgiveness. I also listened to a few Friday sermons [in the mosques] and most dealt with the ban on celebrating Christmas and threatened [anyone doing so] with hell. One side calls for love and the other side threatens damnation! And all this for celebrating a holiday that by nature is more a social event than a religious [festival].
"People like holidays because they are joyful and are [an opportunity for] socializing, not because of the prayers and religious rituals. Why therefore shouldn’t I participate [in something] that will augment happiness in society? Am I obliged to transform [the celebration] into grief in order to be a faithful Muslim?! A reliable hadith states 'a good word is considered charity'. If a mere word [entitles the person uttering it] to a reward, then shouldn't this apply even more to cases involving sharing another's happiness in a manner that increases cheer in society as a whole? Can there be a greater act of charity than this? Does celebrating the Christian Christmas mean that I have become a Christian? Why this religious phobia towards the other?
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"One [of the preachers] who ruled that celebrating Christmas is prohibited asked: Why should we participate in their holidays when they don’t participate in ours? This question is pointless for two reasons: First of all, they [do] greet us on our holidays; second, our holidays – both Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha – [are celebrated through] prayer. Should we demand that they pray in the mosques or make a pilgrimage to Mecca to complete their participation in our [holidays] "?
"Tune the radio to any news channel. Most of the news items concern a killing here and a bombing there… and the vast majority, most unfortunately, are connected to Muslims. To [dissociate] ourselves [from these acts], we term [those perpetrating these actions] extremist terrorists. However an extremist is also someone who rules that celebrating the holidays [of non-Muslims] is forbidden because he objects to a world engulfed in love and prefers hating and ostracizing the other and even hopes that the other will die, if possible.
"The most accurate description of war I have ever heard was 'old people feuding and young people dying.' The same applies to our Muslim society, when some aged [clerics] issue religious rulings [that cause] disasters leading young people to die in suicide attacks or throat-slitting.
Do we need love or killing? I hope the day will come when Muslim religious scholars have the courage to admit that participating in the celebrations and festivities of another – any other –is a good deed that is not motivated by love for this religion or other but by the desire that love should prevail throughout the world."
 See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis no. 964, "In Advance Of Orthodox Easter In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood And Salafis Issue Fatwas Forbidding Greeting Copts On Their Holidays," May 3, 2013; Special Dispatch no. 5108, "Liberal Website On Controversy Among U.S. Muslims Regarding Celebrating Christmas," December 27, 2012; Special Dispatch No. 1481, "Saudi Columnists on the Holiday Atmosphere in Saudi Arabia and on the Muslim Attitude towards Non-Muslim Holidays," March 1, 2007.
 Elaph.com December 24, 2013.