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Halloween: Muslims Against the Current

Whenever this notable minority is not in the Lazy River, they warn their children off the endless chips and apply the highest-possible factor of sun cream.

And even in water they like to maintain certain distinctions. They will not do the Macarena. They will not participate in the Zumba class. Some say they are joyless …..” – Zadie Smith

Ignoring the celebration of Halloween in our Muslim countries of origin has always been a piece of cake for us as parents, and not a really big deal for our kids.

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We used to live among our families and friends with whom we shared the same cultural and religious beliefs. We celebrated Ramadan, the two feasts, the New Hijri Year and Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday. Our former nations of residence observe those special festivities as statutory holidays.

In any country where Islam is the faith of 95% or more of its inhabitants, people tend to easily exercise their religion. They don’t feel coerced to justify anything to anyone, and attempts to emulate the West are often shunned by society.

Hence, it is commonplace to find a group of Muslim parents complaining to their kids’ school administration if the idea of celebrating Halloween is pondered in countries like Egypt, for instance.

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Different in the West

How are things different in the West?

In fact, there is a world of difference. Immigrants who have decided to abandon the warmth of their cozy Islamic ambiences suddenly find themselves labelled “religious groups”. Or sometimes they are called “visible minorities” in countries like America and Canada.

Islamic holidays are no longer observed by the state nor by its “dominant groups”. Muslim families have to lead poor social lives and have bland, low-profile celebrations amidst a setting where Western festivities dominate the whole scene.

We often hear that children adapt more easily to new changes than their adult parents. But this is ironically where the problem lies.

Is It Easy to Swim Against the Current?

If we can maturely stand up tall and face adversity as we hold on to our faith and swim against the current in a secular society, would it be easy for our kids?

Absolutely not.

First, there is a lot of peer pressure at school. Kids keep talking about their costumes, as they rave about the tremendous amount of candy they will have devoured like sugar ogres.

On our way back home after school, all shops and streets are decorated and filled with appealing goods for tempting prices. At home, the media takes over to make sure that we are all submerged in a bubble of commercialized consumerism. That is not to mention the age gap between us; candy means a lot more to a child than to us, as we all know.

Halloween cannot be ignored any longer here; it is a monster that chases us everywhere we go. We are constantly avoiding it, trying to shelter our kids from it by all means, but sometimes our efforts are to no avail.

Muslim Concerns

Google search “Halloween and Muslims” and around 33,000 results will come up. The biggest concern in these articles and blogs revolves around where Halloween came from, and why Muslims should not be celebrating it.

A few other blogs, however, propose that it should not be seen as anti-Islamic, since the kids will not do anything that involves worshiping devils or false Gods.

Other parts of most blogs offer a quick how-to-approach to talking our kids out of celebrating Halloween.

According to some bloggers, parents are advised not to send their kids to their public schools on that day. Other bloggers encourage parents to redirect their kids’ focus on charity and giving the poor instead of spending money on candy and costumes, or using the Islamic center that day to get together with other like-minded kids.

What Should Parents Do?

As a parent myself, I personally have some reservations on these tips. First, they do not resonate with the cognitive capacity of children. Children are imaginative fun lovers who learn by doing, touching and feeling things rather than talking about abstract ideas.

The Chinese proverb says “I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.” Halloween can be an opportunity for us to teach our kids about their own fears and how to face them by using various hands-on activities- not by lecturing and preaching.

We can also seize this chance and design activities, tell stories, write and act plays about how Islam perceives death and resurrection- using light, kid-friendly, and unintimidating methods.

Another drawback in the advice presented stems from the fact that it only confirms our being a “minority” and makes the kids feel more isolated and left out, which can eventually take a toll on their ability to be later integrated into the community as adults.

Finally, in order to ask them not to celebrate Halloween, there must be an alternative. For example, our own festivities need to be spruced up and made very, very special; and that is easy to say, hard to do.

A big part of feeling that an event is special lies in what is going on out there in the neighborhood and all over the city and on TV that day. Our Islamic holidays will never feel the same way as in our home countries, so why fight it anyway?

Conclusion

In a nutshell, Muslim parents who choose to swim against the current need to wake up to the fact that it is going to be very hard, because we are already inside the “lazy river”.

Adopting a moderate, flexible and practical approach with a long-range vision can promise a better future for this new generation of Muslims living in the West.

(From Discovering Islam archives)

About Sara Hassanien
Sara Hassanien is a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) professional, freelance editor, translator and CABC (Canada Arabic Broadcast Corporation) radio announcer. She is originally from Egypt, and lives in Montreal, Canada.