Say Merry Christmas Without Worry http://www.thespec.com/opinion/article/298977--say-merry-christmas-without-worry As an observant Muslim, I want to take this opportunity to wish all my Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah. I believe that Christmas, more than any other religious holiday, has been under attack the last few years, and I want to lend my support to those who want to wish each other Merry Christmas. For a pluralistic nation that prides itself on embracing freedom of expression and an unofficial separation of church and state, the widespread public celebration of Christmas poses a unique quandary. The solution of course is to look to our foundation as a pluralistic nation that embraces freedoms of expression and religion, but be cognizant that we do not impose our beliefs on other people. We have to embrace the religions and cultures of everyone; that means embrace with both arms! Let’s celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Eid and Diwali as joyous holidays and without worry of offence. Successive years of legal action by civil libertarians in the U.S., and a less formal campaign in Canada, have diminished the public promotion of all things Christmas, giving rise to the more politically correct — and judicially safe — “holiday” observances. Efforts to remove Christmas from the holiday season have bordered on ridiculous. City halls and provincial legislatures have erected “holiday trees.” A Toronto judge had a Christmas tree removed from a courthouse’s reception area to the staff room to avoid offending non-Christians. Schools have “winter family festivals” rather than Christmas concerts, at which carols and Santa songs are avoided. Hamilton city hall has removed the large Merry Christmas sign from the escarpment. De-legitimizing the religious aspects of Christmas robs all of us of our respective religious and cultural freedoms. People are starting to get fed up and are revolting against what they see as hypersensitivity or political correctness gone amok. My issue is that the people that are often the targets of these revolts — Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus — are not the ones who are pushing the politically correct agenda. These communities do not want to see Christmas undone; rather, they want a seat at the religious celebration table. In other words, the inevitable backlash against these minority religious communities is unfair and unwarranted. It seems that those who want to dilute the Christmas aspects of December fall into two broad categories: Well-intentioned and considerate Christians who do not want to offend non-Christians by having such overt displays of their religion since we live in a multicultural and multi-denominational society; and lapsed Christians or atheists who have left their church and who want to see any and all evidence of public religion removed. Their understanding of secularism is the eradication of all things religious, including Christmas. The point is that those who have declared war on Christmas are not Muslims, Hindus or Sikhs (even though we often get blamed for it). The position of these three minority faith communities (and perhaps other faith communities as well) is that everyone should be entitled to celebrate their religious holidays in the public domain. In other words, instead of eradicating all evidence of religious celebrations, let’s recognize and celebrate them all, and not exclude any. Christians should not have to be asked to dilute their religious observances on Christmas. At the same time, we need to start inviting Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus to offer their prayers and graces at community functions. So feel free to wish your neighbour/friend/co-worker a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Joyful Kwanza, Eid Mubarak, Happy Diwali and/or a Happy New Year. If someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, Eid Mubarak or Happy Diwali, do not be offended. They are merely trying to share their joy with you, not trying to convert you to their beliefs. A true pluralistic society embraces all religious expressions. Freelance columnist Hussein Hamdani lives in Burlington, and works as a lawyer in Hamilton.