Saudi cleric wants to ban Christmas for Muslims

Sultan of Brunei Bans Muslims From Christmas Celebrations
Sultan of Brunei Bans Muslims From Christmas Celebrations

A prominent Saudi cleric is being labeled a "Grinch" online for telling Muslims around the world that they shouldn't celebrate Christmas with Christian friends. Mohammad al-Arefe, who espouses the conservative Wahhabi strain of Islam, directed his condemnation of Christmas mainly towards Muslims living in Europe.

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"To my people, my sons and daughters in Europe and elsewhere. It is forbidden to attend the celebrations of Christmas and New Year, as they include alcohol, dancing, drunkenness and the mixing of genders," al-Arefe wrote in a post on Facebook, where has nearly 20 million fans on Facebook. As of the publication of this article, the post had been liked more than 60,000 times and been shared almost 6,000 times, but it also drew a backlash from people who accused al-Arefe of trying to stoke tensions between Christians and Muslims, with some saying he belonged to the same "school as ISIS."

Al-Arefe's edicts carry no real official heft, but they are likely to be influential anyway as he has millions of followers who watch his sermons. He has a history of making controversial statements, including saying he supported jihad in Syria and defending al-Qaeda on-air. (He later denied ever making such statements.) He has been banned from traveling to the U.K. and has been arrested and jailed by Saudi authorities in the past for some of his statements.

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This statement, too, has proven to be controversial online.

"The infidel Europe that hugged the refugees, gave them food and home and dignity that they couldn't find in the Muslim countries, not even in Mecca, the land of Muslims which is close to them. Your blemish has become exposed, you religion traders," commented one user on Arefe's post.

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Another from Libya commented that "it is forbidden to drink alcohol and dance but it's permitted to behead and slaughter Muslims on the streets." Other users accused al-Arefe of distorting Islam. One said that "there is no Quranic text or Muslim tradition that bans celebrating with people from other religions," and one said the cleric was encouraging "sectarian wars" which would result in the deaths of ordinary civilians.

Al-Arefe is not the only one trying to crack down on Christmas. The Muslim state of Brunei has reportedly banned people from wearing Santa hats in public. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia also prohibits Christians and other religious minorities from practicing their religion or marking religious holidays in public.

Thousands of people also retweeted al-Arefe's post in supporting of the ban. Some complained that Christmas season celebrations have been taking over Muslim countries, pointing in particular to the over-the-top celebrations that occur in Dubai, which is known for its massive New Year's Eve fireworks show.

The post Saudi Cleric Wants To Ban Christmas For Muslims appeared first on Vocativ.

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