Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Festive Season and Returning Home: A Muslim View


BBC Radio Scotland
Thought for the Day - Monday 21st December 2009
Amanullah De Sondy
Assistant Professor of World Religions
Ithaca College, New York

As the festive period moves into full swing it brings with it the return of family and friends back ‘home’. Returning home had been on my mind for the last few weeks as I organised my own return from New York to Glasgow having spent the last 4 or so months teaching at a liberal arts college there. It took me a while to set up a new home in a land far from my beloved Scotland.

We may consider the politically correct statement that these are winter holidays but let’s be honest and be proud of the fact that these are our Christmas and New Year holidays – something Scottish tradition and culture is not only proud about nationally but renowned for internationally. Of course at the same time we must appreciate the fact that Hannukah and the Islamic New Year also coincide with this festive season, but appreciation of religious and cultural diversity can only be equally celebrated when we as a nation or individual Scots are confident in our own identity, uniting us in diversity.

I, as a Muslim, feel very comfortable with the celebration of Christmas, infact this was the first year that I put up a tree in my flat in the States. It was with a raised eyebrow that one of my Jewish students questioned why I was putting up a Christmas tree. My answer was simple – the tree can be whatever you want it to be, it does not affect my spiritual existence as a Muslim and it was a personal matter, as with many other issues in the life of a believer. It reminds me of the actions of the Prophet Muhammad when he found a painting with the nativity scene showing Mary and Jesus hanging in the Kaaba – understood in Islam as the house of God, he ordered it to remain hanging. And so we adorn our homes with many things that make us comfortable – be it our family, friends, trees and paintings all united in the phrase ‘home is where the heart is’, let us now consider the wider implications of this phrase in our Scottish homeland.

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