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Fatwa Against Santa Stirs Passions in Australia

Categories: Oceania, Australia, Religion

Online outrage has followed news reports of a fatwa against Christmas allegedly issued by an imam at Sydney’s Lakemba Mosque. There have also been touches of humour from those tired of the seasonal hard sell. The original message has now been removed [1] from their Facebook page:

The fatwa, which sparked widespread community debate and condemnation, warned that the “disbelievers are trying to draw Muslims away from the straight path”.

It also says that Christmas Day and associated celebrations are among the “falsehoods that a Muslim should avoid … and therefore, a Muslim is neither allowed to celebrate the Christmas Day nor is he allowed to congratulate them”.

At the Punch [2] blog, journalist Anthony Sharwood has taken the matter seriously, despite a flippant tone:

Talk about a load of ding-dong delivered merrily from on high.

…The thing about Christmas in Australia, as in much of the western world, is that it transcends religion.

Anthony is not alone in believing that that a fatwa is something that is “declared on…” rather than being a religious opinion or ruling. Some even seem to believe that it is a death sentence or jihad.

While the rest of the blogosphere has been simply reposting the mainstream media reports, twitter is aflutter.

m.m. [3] is clearly angry:

‏@mar5mac [4]: The further into this article I get, the more I seethe. >>MT @theage [5] Lakemba Mosque's #fatwa [6] against #Christmas [7] http://ow.ly/1QtVTO [8] #auspol [9]

There are a few ‘go back where you can from’ tweets such as this one from Jenko Schmidt [10]:

@JenkoSchmidt [11]: Why does this country let the sort of people live here who declare war on Christmas Day? #lakemba [12] #fatwa [6] #christmas [7]

Some have offensive anti-multicultural messages. The other f-word has been thown around quite a bit. You can find them on the #fatwa [6] hashtag if so inclined.

Nick O'Brien [13] welcomed the removal of the Facebook fatwa:

‏@NickOBrien999 [14]: Great reaction from the wider Muslim community. Lakemba Mosque removes Christmas ‘fatwa’ post: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/lakemba-mosque-removes-christmas-fatwa-post-20121223-2btaj.htm [1]

Quite a few tweeters thought the whole story was a media beat up, Andrew Zammit [15] among them:

‏@Andrew_Zammit [16]: A headline saying “fatwa against Christmas” makes it sound like a big deal when it isn't.

Anyway, calls for Muslim leaders to disown the fatwa have brought a swift response. Michael Byrnes [17] is pleased:

‏@MichaelByrnes [18]: Good to see Muslim leaders have come out to condemn the “fatwa” RT @smh [19] Lakemba Mosque issues a fatwa against Christmas http://ow.ly/gjdMd [20]

Perhaps the best expression of this was captured by ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Journalist Lucy Carter [21] posted this pic to twitter:

‏@lucethoughts [22]: My cameraman Grant Wignall took this of the Christmas message written above the Lakemba Mosque pic.twitter.com/IFDfFKo8 [23]

Response to Fatwa: Merry Xmas over Lakemba Mosque [22]

Response to Fatwa: Merry Xmas over Lakemba Mosque (Twitter pic: Lucy Carter @lucethoughts)

Apparently, the “Lebanese Muslim Association, which runs the mosque, says the comments were taken out of context and the group harbours no anti-Christmas sentiment” according to ABC News [24]. They have been replaced with a message of good will.

It seems that Santa will not be joining Salman Rushdie [25] just yet.