Letters To The Editor
January 06, 2010 - MidWeek
Being an American convert from Christianity to Islam gives me a unique perspective on Bob Jones’ column “Christmas And American Muslims.” Although it is unlikely that you would ever see a display commemorating Ramadan in most Western cities, I as a Muslim do not have the expectation that I would. America is a predominately Christian nation. What I and other American Muslims do expect, however, is that we as a nation come to have a better understanding and respect for differing faiths.
As Muslims, we’ve been taught it’s our duty to understand and protect those of other faiths who find themselves in our care. Prophet Muhammad (praise be unto him) taught us that those in our care should have a sanctuary of peace, whereby we have the duty to “protect their lives, faith, land, property… they need not change anything of their past customs. No right of theirs or their religion shall be altered.”
Muslims believe in Jesus (PBUH) as a prophet and messenger of God, but not as the son of God. Just as we do not celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) so too we do not celebrate the birth of Jesus (PBUH).
Now, there are some Muslims who do celebrate Christmas out of ignorance, as well as those who want to appear more “American” for personal gain. There are even those who have a fear of standing out and being different, who want to “blend in,” calling themselves “moderate” or “progressive” Muslims.
But the majority of Muslims do not celebrate Christmas, as it is clearly a religious holiday. No matter how commercial it becomes and no matter how hard one tries to pretend it is a secular celebration of peace and harmony, it is still a religious holiday. Islam teaches that celebrating any additional religious holidays is considered a religious innovation and is clearly prohibited in Islam.
We are, however, encouraged to embrace other traditions with respect to non-religious holidays, such as the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, and even our Hawaiian state Legislature established Islam Day. This type of celebration is allowed, as it does not interfere with the teachings of Islam. Celebrating other religious holidays and going outside the teaching of one’s religion is how religions are changed over the course of time.
Muslims only have two religious celebrations called Eid, whereby we greet one another with “Eid Mubarak,” or Blessed Eid. I have yet to hear anyone say “Merry Eid,” but one must remember that there are a significant number of American converts who do take their English language and some of their traditions with them. This is an allowable practice in Islam and, in fact, is encouraged as long as it is not in conflict with the teachings of Islam. When an American becomes Muslim or is born into Islam, they do not become Arab or Pakistani. Americans remain American. This is our identity. This may account for why some homes are decorated at Eid with lights that are sold during the Christmas season. Each culture has its own tradition with respect to how the Eid is celebrated, just as each country has a different way of celebrating Christmas - Americans put up Christmas trees and the Dutch put out wooden shoes. Both are celebrating the Christmas holiday.
Michele Layn Ouansafi
Pay for schools
I am not a teacher, do not I have any association with teachers and I have no children in Hawaii schools. But I have grown increasingly despaired of the situation here with the lack of funds for teachers, both K-12 and university level. Last week the governor gave her thumbs down to the latest proposal to reduce furlough Fridays. Then I got my MidWeek and read the letter from Wanda Hashimoto expressing her idea that UH faculty take a pay cut and direct the funds to K-12 education. She calls it “taking the long view.”
Why on earth is it that only public employees, the teachers themselves, are expected to pay for this deficit in funding students’ education? Why doesn’t the private sector take a “pay cut,” in the form of increased taxes, to educate their own and society’s children? And, yes, while they already pay teacher salaries via their current taxes, so do the teachers themselves pay the same taxes. We need to be all in on this one or we’re all going down, slowly but surely.
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