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Halloween: Do Muslims Celebrate?

Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 04:16 PM

As a kid, my parents didn't have an issue with my going out on Halloween and trick-or-treating. They didn't even hassle us much about bringing home too much candy. Their main concern was probably the same one my sisters and I had: what if we bit into an apple with a razor blade into it?? That was the fear much of America seemed to have in my day -- as if kids of our generation actually had an iota of interest in healthy apples when presented with so many other, more decadent options.

It didn't dawn on me until years later that there are significant chunks of the American public who avoid Halloween, either because it elevates violence (and candy corn), or because of its roots. There are Christians who avoid celebrating Halloween because of its ties to pagan traditions. Plenty of Orthodox Jews don't celebrate, either.

But a couple weeks ago, as I was agonizing over what costume my kid should wear on Halloween, I started wondering about her Muslim friends and classmates, and whether I'd seen them in our little neighborhood parade in the past.

As it turns out, the issue of whether or not to celebrate Halloween is one that many Muslims think about.

"You have posed a very controversial question in the Muslim/Arab world," wrote Liali Albana, in response to my query.

Albana lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and grew up celebrating, although her parents had reservations.

"We thought [of it as] a fun secular celebration that included dressing up and free candy," she wrote. "What more could a kid want?"

These days, Albana says she strongly discourages her son from celebrating, because it's not one of the two main holidays celebrated in Islam. And he's fine with that.

"The fact that he goes to a private school helps a lot too," she wrote, noting that the school organizes alternative activities so that kids don't feel left out. "He often asks me, 'Mommy, what's the point of scaring people? Why do they have a holiday that scares people?' And add to that the idea of mischief night, and you realize that it really is not a harmless holiday. It does not teach us any valuable or moral lessons. It is exactly the opposite. It teaches us that scaring others, throwing eggs at their door, wrapping their porch with toilet paper, and eating a lot of candy is alright. Not to forget the fact that Halloween is a holiday that is still significant for alot of pagan rituals and witch craft."

Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher is Muslim and is organizing the trick-or-treating in her Manhattan building, but she's also an academic who studied 70 Pakistani students in a public high school in New York City. In her dissertation she wrote:

Not surprisingly, none of the youth had any plans on celebrating Halloween, but what was a little unexpected was the way two students, Basaam and once again Tanveer talked about the holiday. Both of them referred to Halloween as a “holiday of the devil” and then laughed as if they were in on a secret that others did not know about. Their reaction implied to me that they thought that they were “superior” because they had no desire to engage in this “pagan” holiday. Yet, to me, their reaction seemed to be a defensive mechanism to cope with their positioning of outsiders--a consequence of the racism in the aftermath of September 11th.

Ameena told me that none of the kids she observed followed Thanksgiving either, or Valentine's Day. In her opinion, "it is a class thing."

"Kids from working class families seem to have a much more restricted view of what is considered "haraam" and "halaal" - and I mean this beyond food!" she wrote. "Beyond class, I think some (national) groups have more restrictive notions of Islam (e.g. Pakistanis are more restrictive than, say, Lebanese Muslims etc)."

It's not just Muslim immigrants who have second thoughts about celebrating. Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, author of "Green Deen," is black, and his early associations with Halloween are distinctly unpleasant.

"I grew up in NYC at a time when murders were at an all time high, when shootouts and automatic gunfire was normal to hear at night, and when my schoolyard was littered with crack vials," he wrote. "On Halloween kids took it as an opportunity to act extra wild; they would beat people up, steal stuff, etc, Halloween was an excuse to be stupid, crazy, and dangerous - another reason i wanted nothing to do with it."

Abdul-Matin is married to an Indian-born Muslim, and they don't plan to celebrate, when they have kids, or to create an alternative event.

"I think parents who secretly felt left out, or who want to be "normal" force the normative experience or the fear of not being left out on their kids. I think folks have to be clear - this is not what we do. End of story."

However, Paula Desrochers-Yakout says she lets her kids dress up, provided they wear "halal" costumes, "such as a pumpkin or a Disney character."

"Halloween just seems American and taking that away to me just seems to be one more thing that makes them different and not really appreciate being Muslim," she wrote. "I want my kids to love being Muslim – not to feel like they are SO different than those that they go to school with.  I want them to be PROUD that they celebrate Eid but also have one thing in common that they have fun with."

 

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Comments [12]

Concerned from Solon, OH, USA

In America state and church are separate but looks like it is just on paper as in all public school many religious holidays are celebrated in one form are other. When I came to this country first time and went to License Office to get my license I thought I entered in a religious place. It was Halloween season. The same story is in Christmas season. In fact, I asked the clerk sarcastically "is it a Church?". In my opinion one celebrate Halloween, Christmas or Eid is his/her personal matter and personal belief but these religious celebrations should be out of government offices and buildings and church and state should be separate.

Oct. 25 2013 06:03 PM
Sousou from Ohio

Well I am an American/Leabnese Muslim. Married to a Lebanese man and we have two girls. I let my girls celebrate Halloween understanding that there are differences. We are not worshiping anything or connecting it to any religious event. We do not believe in the scary aspect of Halloween. It is more for children to dress up as their favorite cartoon or tv character. Look cute, laugh watch silly Halloween movies and realizing its all fun using our immigination. I mean maybe once long ago Halloween was connected to a religious event by Druids but I don't see any Druids hanging around. It's become more of a tradition in America to make fun of something that was taken so seriously so long ago that really was silly. Now it is just simple fun. Your kid is not going to worship Satan dressed up as Cinderella or a Pokemon. I'm not sure that's the devils type. Halloween has become comercialized as a way for stores to raise there sales just like Valentines day. So don't make it a big deal it's more of a an American tradition like Thanksgiving, which is my favorite after the Muslim holidays. It has everything to do with a big turkey and black Friday. Oh yeah and I like the Super Bowl this should be a holiday lol.

Sep. 24 2013 02:26 AM
americanmuslim from VA

I am a Muslim convert and consider myself moderate as well. I grew up celebrating Halloween and trick or treated until I was 12 years old. I dont judge anyone for celebrating or not celebrating. This is a good article to give people some insight on what some Muslims are thinking when they dont celebrate. I have three kids 3,5, and 1 year. My husband and I choose not to celebrate Halloween with the kids for many reasons, but I think for me the most important reason, is that its not Eid. We dont believe we should give any holiday importance that is not Eid. By giving it importance, I mean trick or treating, wearing costumes, etc. I was born and raised here from many generations of Americans born and raised here, but now, religiously, my family and I celebrate two holidays and I want my kids to understand that although we accept others and their holidays, we only celebrate two. We can wear costumes and eat candy all throught the year, we dont need one particular day to do that.

Oct. 31 2012 03:02 PM
Honest sayer from w.a perth

i really do not agree me and my sister celebrate halloween and do not fuss cuz i celebrate it for the fun and trill of what i get up to not religon wise so plz don't make a big deal out of this its not wrong to have some fun its like going out with mates but dressing creepy and getting sweets. thank u and god bless u
and i am muslim and another thing people it mus not muzlim

Oct. 16 2011 11:53 AM
Michelle ford

I don't get the big deal. I know many Christians that do not celebrate Halloween for nany of the reasons expressed here and many adopt the same superior attitude expressed by Muslims here. From a Christian.

Nov. 03 2010 08:56 PM
Jasmine from London

At the end of the day, Islam inculcates in Muslims a belief in the 'other', all non Muslims are infidels and their belief systems are dirty.

Oct. 30 2010 05:44 AM
noname

Why does this have to be about "Muslims" not celebrating halloween when clearly LOTS of people don't celebrate?
http://www.racialicious.com/2008/10/30/take-back-the-halloween/
As the previous commentator stated, this article is making something out of nothing.

Oct. 29 2010 09:20 PM
Amna from NYC

Honestly, this is a bit of a silly article. It's making an issue where no issue exists. There are plenty of people who don't celebrate Halloween (Muslim and otherwise) and plenty of people who do (Muslim and otherwise). Looks like the reporter just found a couple of people with different opinions and put them together in an "article" (if you can even call this that) to reflect the "Muslim" perspective on Halloween - as if there even is such a thing.

Oct. 29 2010 09:07 PM
Deborah

Halloween is pretty much a dead issue in my neighborhood. I miss the little Princesses and Power Rangers, but I can't blame parents for looking for a way out of the expense and hassle, and this is one holiday they can beg out of on "higher ground" reasoning.

Oct. 29 2010 04:03 PM
rebekah from New York, NY

As a American Muslim convert, and mother to two young girls, we have celebrated Halloween in the past, (I celebrated every year as a child) but as the girls are 2.5 and 4, I feel it is important to teach them that to be American does not mean you need to do all the things that other Americans do. I am not higab, nor are my girls, you could never identify us as Muslims by looking at us. I consider myself a moderate, practicing Muslim. My reason for not participating in this holiday going forward is a combination of wanting my girls to understand the basis of this pagan holiday, and to show them that to be a follower without asking questions and seeking knowledge does not benefit them, nor their Creator. Plenty of Jews and Christians do not celebrate this holiday because it exemplifies a holiday that so many fail to learn the origins of. Would Allah disapprove of this holiday? Would Muhammed (saaw) participate? One thing is for sure, differences in thinking is the sign of a healthy community. Understandably, Halloween can be "more innocent" for some. I am attempting to teach my children to think before they act. In the future I am sure there will be dialogue about the pros and cons of celebrating. I look forward to these conversations, and teaching my children the art of debate, much more than the simple act of letting them dress up so they are readily accepted as "American." Besides, with two little girls, we have dress up at home everyday.

Oct. 29 2010 02:38 PM
Jack from Bronx, NY

I just read Ibrahim's book, "Green Deen." Fantastic. Excellent for anyone interested in learning a new and totally different perspective on Islam.

Oct. 29 2010 02:15 PM
Saqib from Princeton

I am an American of Pakistani orgins. I am also a first generation immigrant who came to the US in my early teens. I think this notion of considering Halloween "haraam" is silly at best and idiotic at worst. I am also a practicing Muslim and enjoying Halloween as an American secular holiday is fine in my book. Like this article states, the halaal and haraam debate is very much a South Asian thing. People- if you are going to live in America, get out of the Old Country mindsets. Lets finally get off the boat and unpack as we ain't going back home- EVER.

Oct. 29 2010 08:41 AM

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