The day begins with Soborno Isaac, a 5-year-old Muslim boy who brings home a Christmas tree to celebrate December 25, the birth of Jesus Christ. However, there was a problem. His mother, a devoted Muslim, did not like the idea. The conflict between mother and son began heating up.
Isaac: Why can’t a Muslim celebrate Christmas, Mom
Mom: I don’t know, and I don’t need to know. All I know is I’m a Muslim, and Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas.
Isaac: I’m also a Muslim, Mom, and I love my religion, which is Islam. However, I’m also a Hindu, a Buddha, a Jew, and a Christian. I know we love Eid, but we should also love Yom Kippur, Saraswati, Buddha Purnima, and also Christmas. We should love all religions, and I think we should celebrate every holiday as our own.
The 40-year-old traditional mind was unwilling to accept the reasoning of a 5-year-old mind. As a result, Isaac’s mom threw the Christmas tree into a garbage truck. Isaac became enraged and left home, saying he would not return until he found his Christmas tree. On his way out, he wrote a very emotional letter to his mom in the lobby.
I love you, but I did not like you throwing out my Christmas tree. I know you are a Muslim; I’m a Muslim, too. However, I’m not only a Muslim but also a Hindu, a Buddha, a Jew, and a Christian. I love Eid, but I also love Saraswati, Magha Puja, Yom Kippur, and Christmas.
I love all holidays because whatever we can enjoy in human products should instantly become ours, including Eid and Christmas, regardless of their origin. As a Muslim, I am proud of my humanity when I can acknowledge the festivals of other religions as my own. We should all feel a great gratitude that every great holiday, including Christmas, is ours.
I know you are praying for me to find my Christmas tree. I love you, Mom.
While reading the letter, he caught the attention of singer Lawrence Rush. Lawrence liked the letter so much that he read it twice and was motivated to help Isaac find the tree. Meanwhile, Isaac’s mom realized her mistake, and she made a banner with Isaac’s quote: “I’m a Muslim, but I’m also a Hindu, a Buddha, a Jew, and a Christian. I love Eid, Durga Puja, Buddha Purnima, Hanukkah, and Christmas. I belong to all religions, and every great holiday is mine, including Eid and Christmas.” She went to every single mall, holding up her banner in hopes of finding Isaac.
Lawrence and Isaac tried their best to find the Christmas tree, but they couldn’t find it. Lawrence gave up, but Isaac refused to give up and went home without his tree. It was Christmas Eve, and Isaac was sitting in Central Park reading his letter to his mom aloud.As the people dispersed, one of the people there was Kathleen Raab. She thanked Isaac for changing her perspective on Muslims.
When Isaac asked why she wanted to take a picture of him even though he wasn’t a celebrity, Katie responded, “You might not be a celebrity, but you are a hero for people like me whose entire view of the world has changed because of you.” They became friends instantly, and Kathleen offered her help. They hired a horse carriage to take them all around the city in hopes of finding Isaac’s Christmas tree. They found the tree in the Central Park.
Isaac’s mother apologized to him and decided to celebrate Christmas. They have been celebrating Christmas ever since . This message of love has spread around the world, including to Bangladesh where a physics teacher Nahid Afzal & and his son Faiyaz and their friend Noman Lam decided to promote Isaac’s philosophy.
They made 68,000 posters for the 68,000 villages of Bangladesh. The posters stated in Bangla, “I’m a Muslim, but I’m also a Hindu, a Buddha, a Jew, and a Christian. I love Eid, Durga Puja, Buddha Purnima, Hanukkah, and Christmas. I belong to all religions, and every holiday, including Eid and Christmas, is mine.”
These series of events convinced me to make this movie. I wanted to share this story with people, especially with the 1.7 billion Muslims in the world so they too could be inspired by Isaac. However, I’m not a professional writer or director, and I didn’t have the necessary equipment to produce a movie. Furthermore, Isaac is a math and science hero, not a movie star.
To help make this movie, I called my friend, Uday Bangali and Hrishikesh Chakraborty. What I did not tell them was that I didn’t even have a camera. Instead, all I had was a broken iPhone that had been dropped many times. I wasn’t even sure if it was capable of recording anymore. Most of the time, the shooting of the movie was done using a camera from Uday’s production, Bangali Films.
Soborno Isaac is a fan of Kazi Nazrul Islam, the poet Laureate of Bangladesh, who in 1920, expressed his vision of religious harmony in an editorial in Joog Bani, "Come brother Hindu! Come Musalman! Come Buddhist! Come Christian! Let us transcend all barriers, let us forsake forever all smallness, all lies, all selfishness and let us call brothers as brothers. We shall quarrel no more..."
Part # 2:
It was July 3rd, 2017. As we walked into the public park space where the prayer was held, Isaac was very jolly, ready to celebrate Independence Day. All of a sudden, he asked me, “Dad, can I ask Imam to pray for America?” I didn’t expect it from him, because he is just five years old. So I looked at him, surprised, but reluctantly said, “Go ahead,” in a hope that he would not have the audacity to do such a thing in front of hundreds of people. But, the exact opposite happened.
In the middle of the prayer, Isaac suddenly stood up, and shouted, “Excuse me Imam, can you please pray for my country, the United States of America, because tomorrow is 4th of July.” As expected, the imam ignored him, and Isaac sat back down. On his way home Isaac looked very sad and wouldn’t talk. I asked him why he was so sad, and he asked me sadly “Dad, why didn’t the imam pray for my country in his monazat?”
“Forgive the imam,” I said. After going home, I wanted to solve some problems with Isaac, and I was explaining differential equations to him. However, I realized his mind was elsewhere. So, I asked him, “Why aren’t you paying attention?” His response shocked me once again. “Dad, I want to write a letter to George Washington.” “Why?” This time, I was very serious in the conversation with my five- year-old son. “I think the Founding Father deserves an apology from the imam. But since the imam will never apologize, I will apologize on behalf of the imam and 1.7 billion Muslims.” This time, I knew exactly what he was talking about. So I let him go ahead.
Isaac started writing a letter to one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and its first President, George Washington. After Isaac showed the letter to me, I became shocked. How could a five-year-old have the understanding and the mental capability to not only address the wrongs of a religious preacher to a Founding Father, but also try to change it by asking the imam to pray for the US, something no adult would dare to do. And then, it dawned on me.
Rashidul Bari, a doctoral student at Columbia University, teaches mathematics at Bronx C. College. His email is email@example.com and website is Bari Science Lab