Growing up as a Muslim in Canada, I was fascinated by the enormous amount of attention given to ensuring the Christmas spirit is in the air at this time of year.
But what I saw and heard was largely confined to the materialistic aspects of Christmas.
It seemed as if Christmas had been deprived of its own fundamental identity – namely Christ.
At a world-religions conference that took place in Montreal recently, I was asked how Muslims view Jesus. The questioner was amazed to learn that Muslims believe in the life and teachings of Jesus.
In the Quran, God tells the believers: “Say: We have believed in God and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we submit to Him.”
In another verse, God tells Mary: “O Mary, indeed God gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near to God.”
Muslims view Jesus as an honourable prophet who brought guidance and faith to his people.
The names Jesus and Christ are mentioned in the Quran in dozens of verses. The teachings of Jesus and the interaction with his disciples are spoken of.
Muslims believe in the miracles of Jesus, including resurrection of the dead and healing the blind.
Muslims have much to talk about and to celebrate when it comes to Christ.
Although many Canadians have made a clear distinction between church and state and have de-emphasized the importance of Jesus, Christmas is still an important time of year – even in highly secular Quebec.
But are people being deprived of an understanding of the real meaning of Christmas by those secular values?
An Ottawa-area school recently cancelled its annual Christmas concert and offered a “holiday-themed craft night” instead. The justification was that non-Christians students, who were in the minority at the school, would not attend the Christmas concert, and the school had to be accommodating to all students.
Although I applaud the desire to be inclusive, I don’t think the cancellation was appropriate. A more meaningful approach, in my view, would be to hold a multi-faith concert or presentation that would promote understanding of and respect for other people’s faiths.
Children from different backgrounds and religions could share their personal experiences from their own religious celebrations, and shed light on what those celebrations represent.
Christmas is an opportunity for us to learn about the noble teachings of Christ and to share our ideas on how those teachings and values can benefit society.
AYMAN OWEIDA is a doctoral student in the department of experimental medicine at McGill University.