MCC wishes you a Merry Christmas, Eid Mubarik and a Happy Hannukah!
- December 23, 2006Merry ChristmasEid Mubarik
and a Happy New Year!By Raheel RazaDirector, Interfaith AffairsMuslim Canadian CongressIn the past few weeks, one of the most touching images weve seen is that of Pope Benedict in the Blue mosque in Turkey. The sight of the Pontiff standing in silent prayer with Mustafa Cagrici, the chief of religious affairs for Istanbul, bodes well for the future of Christian-Muslim relations.Despite efforts by the Religious Right on both sides to turn the Popes trip into something sinister and dangerous, it has worked as a great bridge builder. This trip has also diffused the affect of the Popes ill timed and unfortunate remarks made in Germany last month, and have set a precedent about positive interaction between faiths.In Turkey, Cagrici said, more swallows will arrive, and were going to enjoy spring in the world all together, while the Pope said With the help of God, we must find the way of peace together, for the good of humanity.The underlying message here is about acknowledging and respecting the common heritage of the three monotheistic religions--Islam, Christianity and Judaism.However, we need to take the extra step of according the same dignity to to the followers of Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism as well as those who belong to the Zoroastrian and Baha'i faiths, but also to those who are agnostics and atheists.Many Muslim Canadians, living and working in a multi-faith, yet secular ethos, respect each others differences, but more of us need to embrace the idea wholeheartedly rather than mere lip service. What binds us is our Canadian national identity, in keeping Canada strong and free; free from bigotry, hatred, religious intolerance, and the medieval need to pass judgements of apostasy and blasphemy.Our faiths may be based on divine texts, but our common Canadian citizenship is based not on inherited race or religion, but the secular laws written and enacted by fellow citizens representing us in parliament. We must never forget the essence of what it is to be Canadian.As the season for goodwill and cheer is upon us, here is an opportunity to further a dialogue of civilizations in a positive way.For Muslims, it is time to think outside the box and reflect on the words of Swiss Muslim academic and theologian Tariq Ramadan. On a recent trip to USA, he said in an interview with NBC, we are the mediators of Islam and a mirror image of our faith. The key question we have to ask ourselves is our faith seen as being visionary and all inclusive or only about fanaticism and violence?In order to project the true image of our pluralistic tradition, we have to embrace those practising other faiths or no faith at all, and hope to be embraced in return. This is not about tolerance but about acceptance. Ramadan who is author of Western Muslims and the Future of Islam goes on say that we must perceive ourselves as part of Western civilization and not as the other.This is easily said than done, for what is western civilization? The essence of western civilization is the separation of religion and state and the notion that laws are enacted in parliaments by elected politicians, not based on divine texts and ordained clergy.Ramadan refers to himself as a Western Muslim and its time North American Muslims started thinking of themselves in a similar manner without fear of being ostracized or pushed out of the faith.As Western Muslims we have the freedom to practise and celebrate our faith in any way we want. However, we have a long way to go in sharing in the celebrations or other communities, without feeling like we are compromising our own tradition.This year Christmas, Hanukah and Eid fall within 10 days of each other while the sights and sounds of Diwali are still ringing in our ears. What a poignant moment for our common heritage. But it needs some understanding.As Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, we should have no qualms saying Merry Christmas to our Christian brothers and sisters.With our Jewish friends we should join in to celebrate Hanukkah - the Festival of Light and victory from oppression.Our own festival of Eid al Adha commemorates the sacrifice of Abraham, who is the patriarch of the three monotheistic traditions. Hopefully we will celebrate this with our non-Muslim friends, colleagues and neighbours.Whether we accept it or not, we all have a common heritage; a heritage of common humanity.Let us take this concept one step further, by wishing our Christian and Jewish friends Eid Mubarak, and our Muslim community, a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.Beyond the three Abrahamic traditions, there are also other celebrations happening. Let us wish Happy Kwanzaa to African-Canadians for a celebration of their heritage, and Sharaf Mubarak to the Bahai community with a belated Happy Diwali to our Sikh and Hindu colleagues.
"The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next"
- Ralph Waldo Emerson