CHARLOTTE, NC, January 6, 2015 – For once the mainstream media has done us a favor by ignoring news out of the Middle East; Santa Claus has been arrested in Jordan!
Alarming as it may sound, the holidays have just concluded so chances are good that the problem can be resolved in time for next Christmas. Unless, of course, ISIS makes a deal with Jordan, in which case St. Nick could be beheaded.
Seriously, there are other signs that change is coming to the Islamic world following several similar incidents during the Christmas season.
As would be expected, Christmas is not recognized by Muslims and, in many cases, it is not even acknowledged.
In several instances during my time in Saudi Arabia, I was amazed by the Islamic customs, or lack of them, regarding their own holidays as well as those of others.
Ramadan is the Islamic holy month which lasts 30 days. It is a time of fasting from sunrise to sunset followed by huge feasts at night.
As a curious Westerner during Ramadan, I went to a local mall which was as fine as any corresponding shopping center in Europe or the U.S. I wanted to see the decorations, to listen to the music and to see for myself how Muslims “celebrated.”
I was naïve to say the least. There were no decorations. There was no music. There was no celebration. Everything was exactly the same as usual because in Islam, everything focuses upon Allah and only Allah. Anything else is considered apostasy.
Inside the Saudi Aramco compound, where I worked, many, if not most, of the contractors were either Americans or Brits, so there were scattered Christmas decorations here and there because they were “tolerated.” Outside those compound walls however, it was business as usual.
Three days before Christmas, I went to Bahrain with my supervisor and an associate. They wanted to have a trade show exhibition ready for installation shortly after the holiday. The designer, who was from England, said it would be impossible to finish because of Christmas. My supervisor became extremely angry and informed the contractor that there was no holiday and that the company needed to work, even on Christmas if necessary, in order to complete the project on time.
In another instance, I was working on Christmas day since it was just like any other day of the year. Suddenly a Saudi woman named Sana came to my door and handed me a Christmas card. During my first few weeks at Aramco, Sana and I had become friends.
In the states, the gesture would have been little more than a polite way of showing that someone was thinking about you during the holidays, but in Saudi Arabia, Sana’s kindness was a significant risk on her part.
Not only was Sana making herself vulnerable because she was a Muslim woman associating with a Westerner, she was also acknowledging a holiday which was not recognized.
Even more surprising to me was the fact that Sana possessed a card that represented Christmas, because such items were a complete taboo within the Kingdom.
Apparently ideas have slowly changed for a few Muslims over the past decade. Some Muslims in Lebanon received harsh warnings for putting up a Christmas tree and allowing their children to dress up in Santa suits. Others were even so radical as to go to a toy store and buy gifts or to ask a shopkeeper to dress up like Kris Kringle and deliver the presents to the children at their home.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Defenders Front council in Indonesia stated that saying “Merry Christmas” to a Christian was tantamount to apostasy because it recognized the existence of another religion. According to Islamic ideology, Christmas is nothing more than the birth of Christ.
Elsewhere, an activist from Malaysia, Abu Ameen, requested that Christians respect the rights of Muslims by not wishing them a “Merry Christmas.”
But the clincher occurred in Jordan, which is normally relatively stable compared to other parts of the region.
Security officials arrested a man dressed as Santa Claus in Amman for distributing toys to children on Christmas. In the process, the man’s car and its contents were confiscated.
“Santa Claus” now faces charges of proselytizing, inciting sectarian strife and doing charity work without a license. He has also been charged with wearing a uniform to “conceal” his identity.
There is no word yet about the status of the reindeer or Santa’s sled, however it has been reported that the elves are as busy as ever at the North Pole during St. Nick’s incarceration.
Western leaders have high hopes of resolving the situation and reports that a treaty has been proposed to Jordan which will ultimately free the Christmas legend under special terms known as the “Santa Clause.”
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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