Christmas: A Middle Eastern Family Seeking Refuge

This is the time of year when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, born to the Virgin Mary. (Muslims believe Jesus was born to Mary as part of a virgin birth as well but do not celebrate Christmas.) This is also one of the most ironic times of the year. It is a time when people who hate Middle Easterners, celebrate Middle Easterners. Jesus was not a blue eyed and blonde haired man from Europe, as he is usually portrayed. He was a Palestinian who spoke Aramaic, which is a language very close to Arabic.

This time of year people dress similar to Middle Easterners when portraying Jesus and Mary. At churches they have plays, showing the biblical story of the birth of Jesus and at community gatherings.

I used to be Christian, so as a child I have portrayed the Virgin Mary several times in Christmas plays. Every time I portrayed Mary in the church, I wore a veil to cover my hair, what Muslims refer to as the hijab. I also wore an abaya, which Muslims refer to as a loose long sleeved dress.  In addition, everyone in the Christmas play would dressed like some of today's modern-day Muslims and Arabs, going to the masjid (Mosque).

We also see nativity scenes at churches or in Christian’s front yards, where the statues look like Middle Easterners, dressed in thobes (men’s long shirt dresses) and wear keffiyehs (male scarfs on the head). The people being displayed at the nativity scenes are Arabs and Middle Easterners. To me, when you celebrate Christmas, it looks like you are celebrating Muslims.

This brings me to the think about how certain Christians hate the Muslim standard of dress or think Muslim women are oppressed by dressing modestly. Why do they portray Mary in a hijab/veil? Is she not pious and dedicated to God like I am? I wear the hijab/veil because I want to be more like Mary. In my eyes and all other Muslims, she was one of the most amazing woman to ever walk this Earth. Why do Christians not judge Mary for wearing hijab but they criticize Muslims like me?

The way this country is looking, Mary and Jesus would not be welcomed by many into the United States. I doubt they would be able to make it through customs, or even receive a visa to the United States because they will be seen as Muslims. Mary and Jesus would not be loved or celebrated, if they were alive today. They’d be stopped at the border and questioned for their belief in God.

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Kaya is a blogger, activist, and writer.

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