Last year I described the problems faced by popular TV chef Nadiya Hussain when she revealed her enthusiasm for Christmas baking. The kind of people who (one suspects) moan that Muslims fail to integrate moaned at Nadiya for doing just that – meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, you get hardline Muslims accusing people like Nadiya of selling out, or of ‘shirk’.
Two recent stories highlight similar problems. Another TV chef, Swedish Camilla Hamid, faced great hostility when she described how she enjoyed joining in some elements of the Christmas festivities despite being a practising Muslim. Cue much pearl clutching from the various shades of alt-right –the Blazing Cat Fur blog filed the story under the foreboding heading ‘Sweden – a nation commits suicide’ and introduced it with a picture of the Swedish flag captioned ‘Dear Sweden, Just kill yourself already’. The post’s central revelation of Julbak Jihad struck, almost inevitably, a note of bathos:
No”, Hamid replied, pointing out that she nevertheless appreciates the Christmastide atmosphere. “One can choose what one can relate to, what one likes. I love everything that has to do with Christmas baking”
Meanwhile in France a Muslim woman’s attempts to join in Christmas baking met with more than social media opprobrium. The Mayor of Saint-Gratien himself intervened to prevent Zekiye Yildirim from running a stall selling cakes and sweets at a Christmas market. Yildrim, who was at the market with one of her children, was distressed to be told she had to pack up if she didn’t remove her scarf. The reasoning was that, because the market was a municipal organisation, all the stallholders had to uphold strict laïcité. However a legal opinion quoted at the end of this report asserts stall holders don’t meet the threshold of public service which would warrant such a ban.
Yildrim articulated her own sense of a double bind at work here.
The Muslim community is told to fit in with other cultural traditions – so, I joined in the Christmas market and was thrown out!
As Rim Sarah-Alouane pointed out on Twitter there’s a real irony in the way Yildrim was banned on grounds of strict religious neutrality from an explicitly Christmas market – and a further irony in the fact that one of the key characters in the Christmas story is routinely depicted wearing a headscarf.
8- BTW another irony is how this right wing mayor and this senator kicked her out on the grounds that she violates laïcité & religious neutrality while the whole thing is happening in a CHRISTMAS market, you know Christmas this very Christian celebration.
— Rim-Sarah Alouane (@RimSarah) December 22, 2018
Back in the UK Miqdaad Versi, from the Muslim Council of Britain, has been facing criticism for attending Midnight Mass. This time the complaints (or the ones I spotted at least) were directed at him by fellow Muslims. He was warned sternly about ‘potential acts of kufr’ by one zealot, although it’s good to see that such critics were outnumbered by supportive messages from Muslims – many of whom dismissed the hardliners in derisory terms.