Magharebia (Washington DC)

2 January 2013

Tunisia: Fatwa Against Christmas, New Year's Sparks Outrage

Tunis — Tunisian imam Bechir Ben Hassen recently said that greeting "infidels" on the birth of Christ is prohibited.

"Wishing someone a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year is forbidden by Islam," AFP quoted the preacher as saying in a sermon posted on Facebook.

"Christians celebrate the birth of Isa (Jesus) because they consider him to be the son of God, and when Muslims celebrate this day, they would be celebrating kufr and would be recognising this corrupt belief," the salafist said on December 26th.

AFP also quoted Ben Hassen as saying that selling items to people for the purpose of celebrating the New Year and Christmas was also forbidden.

Like many citizens Awatef Zed, denounced Ben Hassen's teachings and called it hypocrisy.

"They wear the robe of righteousness to exercise various forms of hypocrisy and lies," she said. "Happy New Year to all Christians, Jews and Muslims!"

Houda Touzi, a practicing Muslim, also disagrees with Ben Hassen and finds nothing wrong with such practices.

"I'm a Muslim and I do all my religious duties, including prayers and fasting, etc.," Touzi said.

"However, I don't miss a chance to celebrate the New Year by buying refreshments and preparing a special dinner with my family. We laugh and sing, and we never felt that this affects our Islam or that we'll go to hell for that. Our Islam is much more refined than this nonsense and these aggressive fatwas," she added.

Mohamed Ben Abdelkader told Magharebia, "Unfortunately, the likes of this ignorant Wahhabi are many." He added that the extremist imam ignores the Qur'an, which reads: "Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve," (al-Baqara, 62).

"He doesn't know the difference between Muslims and believers," Abdelkader added. "How then can he know anything else? The problem is in the pulpits that allow for such hateful sayings."

"I encourage people to stand up against those who sow divisions and ignorance, I mean those Islamists who at this time every year sow hatred and discord among humans, either because of a disease in their minds or for a certain hidden purpose," he added.

For his part, Moustapha Milad said, "I personally don't feel embarrassed about greeting Christians or others on Christmas. However, I do not celebrate this day because it has nothing to do with our culture, and I don't think that Christians celebrate our own eids."

"Celebration at the beginning of a year has a positive, symbolic meaning so that all days of the year may be happy," Milad's friend Marouia said.

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