Christmas is around the corner. In many countries, even one like China where the majority of its population aren’t Christian, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Christmas decorations and a multitude of people dressed up as Santa Claus. But you won’t see any of those if you are in Brunei. Earlier this year, Brunei announced that it will ban Christmas celebrations “for fear of Muslims being led astray”.
Today I had a lengthy discussion on Facebook about how this move by Brunei proves that Islam is a terrible, intolerant religion. I firmly believe that such views are erroneous. For a start, Brunei isn’t saying that Christians cannot celebrate Christmas. The statement from Brunei officials actually says: “Believers of other religions that live under the rule of an Islamic country – according to Islam – may practice their religion or celebrate their religious festivities among their community, with the condition that the celebrations are not disclosed or displayed publicly to Muslims”. So Christians in Brunei can still celebrate Christmas. But even if they weren’t allowed to, does it mean that Islam is a terrible, intolerant religion?
No. It does not.
It is not that Islam is flawed. The failings are those of Man.
Many religions have, in their history, members who, in the name of their God or faith, done horrible things. The Catholics have Pope Urban II who launched the First Crusade that led to the Rhineland Massacre. More recently, Amnesty International reported that “Muslims in the western part of Central African Republic are being forced to hide their religion or convert to Christianity under threat of death”. There, a Christian militia known as the anti-Balaka have targeted Muslims. “We had no choice but to join the Catholic Church. The anti-balaka swore they’d kill us if we didn’t,” said a 23-year-old man in the Sangha-Mbaere prefecture. Does this mean that Catholicism and Christianity are terrible, violent and intolerant religions? Most certainly not. It just means that the people who committed those atrocities have misinterpreted Catholic and Christian teachings.
Similarly, we need to be clear that the actions of a few, including certain policies in certain countries, do not necessarily reflect on the entirety of the religion. We need to understand that our thinking has been shaped greatly by the media. Many of us have been made to believe that there are violent quotes in the Koran. Yes. There are. But they need to be read in their context. Besides, there are also violent verses in the Holy Bible too. But we don’t go around saying that that religion is one of violence. Watch this:
As such, it is likely that many of us are unjustly biased against Islam because we have been primed to be so. We need to guard against it. Let’s not tar all Muslims and all of Islam with the same brush. No religion is perfect because all men are flawed. Let’s live and let live.
[Featured image: Picture of Sultan of Brunei from DailyMail.co.uk]