Monday, 25 December 2017

How did Victorian Muslims celebrate Christmas?

The Victorian Muslims were not celebrating Christmas in the Christian sense, said Humayun Ansari, professor and author of The Infidel Within: Muslims in Britain since 1800.
They simply wanted to reach out to the community.
In doing so, Ansari said, Quilliam and the early British Muslims were "indigenising" their Muslim identities.
"What Quilliam is doing in these early examples is trying to communicate that Islam is more familiar to the Christians of Britain then they think. He is trying to show that it is not something foreign and alien, but part of the Abrahamic tradition," Ansari told Al Jazeera.
"These early British Muslims were taking elements of British indigenous culture deemed acceptable within the Islamic framework and marrying them with their religious identities. In doing so, they offer a roadmap and blueprint for what an indigenous British Muslim identity might look like today."
In addition to the mosque, the Muslims of Liverpool founded a school, orphanage and a museum.
At school, students were taught a curriculum that integrated Islam with mainstream British education, including music classes.
They took part in literary and debating events titled A night with Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell and Ancient Britons.
In the playground, boys played football and cricket.
The Crescent newspaper, edited by Quilliam, regularly published inspiring quotes of notable Brits such as Shakespeare and Lord Tennyson.
Quilliam's role and influence were such that he was given the title of Sheikh Ul Islam of Britain by the Ottomans, and when he left Liverpool in 1908, it seems his community disbanded too.
Today, there are more than 2.5 million Muslims in Britain and, unlike Quilliam's community, they hail from a multitude of ethnic and cultural backgrounds and observe Islam differently.
"The Victorian Muslims were a small community, almost exclusively white English," said Sadiya Ahmed, founder of Everyday Muslim - an organisation which preserves Britain's Muslim heritage.
"Today, we have Muslims in Britain whose families have come from all over the world as well as those who are ethnically English, and this inevitably means they approach Christmas in a number of ways," she told Al Jazeera.
The issue recently came to the fore when Tesco, a supermarket brand, released its festive advertising campaign featuring a Muslim family celebrating Christmas.
Critics threatened to boycott the company because they saw Islam as incompatible with Christmas.
However, others welcome the advert as embracing multiculturalism.
"Some [Muslims] will completely shun it as a Christian festival, believing it has nothing to do with Islam," said Ahmed.
"Others will embrace it as a secular British tradition, putting up trees, exchanging presents and eating a halal turkey on Christmas Day. And then there will be those viewing it as a celebration of the birth of an important prophet of Islam.
"Britain's Muslim community is far more diverse today than it was when Quilliam was alive, and this is why their views on Christmas are equally diverse."
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