One thing I really loved about growing up was my mother trying to help me experience as much of the world from our little corner of it in Manchester, UK.
If there was a celebration to be had, we’d join in, it didn’t matter if it wasn’t a tradition we observed usually or if it was a religious festival, if we could get involved, we would.
That’s why I was surprised and upset to read this week about Olympic boxer and fellow Mancunian Amir Khan being slated for sharing footage of his Christmas tree on social media.
The champion fighter and practising Muslim, who recently starred in popular British reality TV show ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!’, even had death threats made against him after sharing a video of his tree decorated with lights for three-year-old daughter Lamaisah.
Accompanied with the words: “While everyone’s asleep, daddy put the tree up.
A post shared by Amir Khan (@amirkingkhan) on
With some of his followers pointing out that Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas, others were more vicious with their words with one person saying: “You mut be dead and your family will be death I promise and allah must promise I and allah see you and check you your angel death came too see you.”
Many of his fans rushed to his defence though with one person saying: “Unbelievable how cynical everyone is for Daddy Amir who clearly stated that his intention in putting up the tree was to make his daughter happy.
“His intentions aren’t to attend mass in any church!”
And it seems many fellow Muslims in Manchester see no harm in Amir displaying a Christmas tree in his home.
Rukhsana Zaman says: “I think, as we live in this country, we realise that Christmas is more cultural than religious. Just because I have a tree it doesn’t make me Christian.
“I went to a nativity this week. 99 per cent of the children were Muslim and the hall was packed with Asian parents and they loved it! The Imam’s son was Joseph!”
I still remember when my mother worked in libraries around Manchester and was advised by a colleague to pay attention to cultural sensitivities. One particular library had print outs for the children to colour and around Christmas time these were festive scenes – Father Christmas, reindeers and snowy wintery scenes. My mum’s colleague had advised her to give Muslim children the winter scene sheets rather than images of Santa so as not to offend them but every time she handed over the “culturally appropriate” winter scene sheets the children would ask for pictures of Father Christmas. It seems children weren’t offended and just wanted to join in.
Rukhsana’s sister in law Saira, said not wanting your child to miss out on innocent fun means Christmas is OK for everyone – regardless of faith.
She says: “My son was in his school nativity and it was at a church. The whole class did it and I didn’t want him to be left out. It didn’t offend me at all.”
Muslim dad-of-two Rachid Abu Laith says he appreciates what Christmas means to the majority of people in the UK and is more than happy for his family to join in the celebrations.
He says: “Most Muslims love Christmas. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Whilst many won’t have a tree, give presents or have lights up, they will take the opportunity to get together as families and enjoy food and time well spent.
“My kids go to the parties and wear Christmas jumpers but we don’t have a tree.”