Iraq’s Muslims celebrate Christmas in solidarity with Christians
BAGHDAD — With every year, Christmas in Baghdad is marked with more festivities than the year before. Is this merely a celebration of joy or a deep expression of solidarity with the threatened Christian minority?
Commercial streets such Karada, al-Mansour, Palestine and Zaytouna are adorned with Christmas trees and Santa Claus. Zawraa park in the center of the capital is hosting a giant Christmas tree, offered by one of the businessmen, while commercial malls and stores are displaying trees that are bigger than usual.
Sama mall, a large shopping complex in the Karada area, set up a 7-meter-high (23 feet) tree, while displaying toys and New Year’s decorations for sale.
In this context, Sama mall staff officer Ammar Hussein said the sales are high despite the declining purchasing power given the financial crises and the austerity plan by the Iraqi government.
“Muslims are buying Christmas trees among other related goods. The shops are frequented by both the poor and the rich,” Hussein told Al-Monitor, stressing that “Muslims love to share this holiday season with their compatriots” and the “injustices done to the Christians are not caused by Muslims but by those who hate Iraq.”
Mohammed and his veiled wife, Umm Youssef, were among the buyers in the mall. They purchased a small Christmas tree and some gifts and took pictures with their children in front of the giant tree.
“This is the most joyful time of the year,” Mohammed told Al-Monitor. “We do not need proof of coexistence. We are one people. We like to celebrate Christmas like the rest of the Islamic holidays,” Umm Youssef said.
In previous years, Christians used to fast with Muslims during the month of Ramadan. They also suspended public celebrations in 2012, when the Christmas holiday coincided with Arbaeen (Arbaeen means “40” in Arabic; it takes place on the 40th day after the anniversary of the death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein bin Ali in 680), which is the saddest event for Shiite Muslims.