Clerics in Iraq argue over celebrating Christmas, New Years

Iraq has been roiled by claims and counter-claims about celebrating Christmas, or participating in new years celebrations, or even having friends across religious lines.

Sheikh Abdul-Mahdi al-Sumaidaie, a Sunni cleric and the mufti of Iraq, said on Friday December 28 that it is forbidden for Muslims to participate in New Year celebrations. “Do not join Christians in Christmas celebrations, because this means that you believe in their doctrine,” Sumaidaie said in his Friday sermon at a Baghdad mosque.

But the head of Iraq’s Sunni endowment Dr. Abdul latif al-Heymem called the statements  “offensive, irrational and unacceptable.” According to Al-Arabiya Al-Heymem said “such reckless and irrational statements take us back to the hatred, incitement, sedition and rejection of other religions. It does not represent the joint the co-existence among Iraqis of all doctrines, nationalities and sects – whether Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen…These statements do not represent the Iraqi Sunni Endowment authority, which works towards establishing national unity.”

Sayyid Ali Al Sistani, the Supreme Shi’ite cleric in Iraq), also disagreed. “It is OK to wish non-Muslims well on their Eids (i.e. holidays). It is also OK to befriend non-Muslims & maintain good relationships with them.” noted the commentator @Observer46664

In the Kurdish region of Iraq as well there was pushback. “Iraq’s highest religious authority (Grand Mufti) issued a ruling forbidding Muslims from celebrating  and the New Year with Christians. KRG’s highest religious authority (Ministry of Endowment) condemned it, and asked Muslims to join their Christian brethren,” writes Ceng Sagnic.

But it doesn’t end there. A Shi’ite head of an endowment had also condemned celebrating Christmas as a form of vice.

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Despite all the religious controversy, Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi had met Cardinal Pietro Parolin for the holiday and Iraq made Christmas an official holiday and the government wished people well.

The same was the case in the KRG where Masrour Barzani wrote “As Christian families come together to celebrate the values Jesus taught and lived, we honor those who put their lives on the line to defend Kurdistan. Our co-existence brings together peoples of all faiths and backgrounds to share a common future.”



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