No fatwa against Christmas

NATALIE O'BRIEN AND RACHEL OLDING
Last updated 15:48 23/12/2012
Fatwa
'IRRESPONSIBLE': The Lakemba Mosque had posted the religious ruling on its Facebook page yesterday morning. The message has since been deleted.

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Australia's biggest mosque has removed an online post that called for a ''fatwa'' against Christmas following harsh condemnation from the Muslim community.

The Lakemba Mosque had posted the religious ruling on its Facebook page yesterday morning, warning followers it was a "sin" to even wish people a merry Christmas.

It followed a similar lecture during Friday prayers at the western Sydney mosque.

The head imam at Lakemba, Sheikh Yahya Safi, had told the congregation during prayers that they should not take part in anything to do with Christmas.

Samier Dandan, the president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, confirmed this morning that the post had been removed from the mosque's Facebook page.

He said a youth worker had copied the text of the fatwa from another Islamic website and it did not reflect Sheikh Safi's lecture or the views of the LMA.

The fatwa, which sparked widespread community debate and condemnation, warned that the "disbelievers are trying to draw Muslims away from the straight path".

It also says that Christmas Day and associated celebrations are among the "falsehoods that a Muslim should avoid ... and therefore, a Muslim is neither allowed to celebrate the Christmas Day nor is he allowed to congratulate them".

The posting of the fatwa has shocked many Muslim leaders. The Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, said the foundations of Islam were peace, co-operation, respect and holding others in esteem.

"Anyone who says otherwise is speaking irresponsibly," he said.

"There is difference between showing respect for someone's belief and sharing those beliefs," Dr Ibrahim said.

Dr Ibrahim said the views did not represent the majority of Muslims in Australia. "We are required to have good relations with all people, and to congratulate them on their joyous events is very important."

The fatwa quotes the teacher Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim as saying that congratulating disbelievers for their rituals is forbidden, and if a "Muslim who says this does not become a disbeliever himself, he at least commits a sin as this is the same as congratulating him for his belief in the trinity, which is a greater sin and much more disliked by Almighty Allaah than congratulating him for drinking alcohol or killing a soul or committing fornication or adultery".

A community leader, Dr Jamal Rifi, said he did not agree with the school of thought behind the fatwa.

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"We can share the festivities with friends and families and neighbours – I don't think there is any civil, religious or ethical reason not to," he said.

Dr Rifi and Sheikh Youssef Nabha, the imam of the Kingsgrove Mosque, are travelling to Nauru on Sunday night with priests from the Maronite and Melkite churches in Sydney to attend Christmas celebrations with the asylum seekers held there.

Dr Rifi said he and Sheikh Youssef would be distributing Christmas cards during the visit.

A community advocate and Muslim convert, Rebecca Kay, said: "It's sad to see the Lebanese Muslim Association, which considers itself the peak body representing Australian Muslims, with comments like these. It goes to show how far they are from representing the community.

"The notion that Muslims wishing other people a merry Christmas will take them out of their faith is outright ridiculous, laughable and borders on the extreme."

Keysar Trad, a former official with the Lebanese Muslim Association, said in his time with the organisation they used to regularly greet people with merry Christmas. "I don't know what has changed," he said. "But now as a representative of Australia's peak Muslim body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, I would like to wish all your readers a merry Christmas and a happy new year."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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