A statement released by a south Lebanon sheikh urging Muslims not to observe Christmas celebrations has sparked an avalanche of online ridicule.
Sheikh Husssam al-Ilani called on Muslims Thursday to understand that Christmas and New Year’s Eve are exclusively Christian holidays, urging Muslim parents not to buy their children Christmas gifts.
The sheikh said the Muslims erecting Christmas trees were making a “mistake,” and that their actions were not helping achieve national unity.
Hundreds of Internet users responded to the Sidon sheikh's message with a mix of sarcasm and anger.
"There is a place for people like this Sheikh. Its called Islamic State AKA Hell," wrote one Twitter user with the handle @rizkrawad.
“This article is hilarious,” Hrag Vartanian wrote on The Daily Star Facebook page under the posted story. “I kind of want to send the imam a Xmas present. I just might ...”
Most Muslim users said the sheikh did not represent their views, with many urging him to leave the country.
“I am from the south of Lebanon, this person or mad man does not define us,” wrote Fadia Hammoud. “Since my youngest age we celebrate xmass and easter and I still do with my kids.”
Another Facebook commenter, Sami Taleb, wrote, “This Muslim tells the Shaikh: Lighten up!” referring to himself.
Christian users also slammed Ilani’s message, accusing him of trying to create divisions. Several people said his call would be like a priest asking Christians not to enjoy an iftar meal with their Muslim friends during Ramadan.
“We have always celebrated holidays together Mr Sheikh, and this is what makes us proud as Lebanese, if you dislike it, just move elsewhere,” Charles Manih wrote.
Joe Challita echoed Manih's statement, saying all his Muslim friends have Christmas trees and celebrate Christmas.
“That’s what makes Lebanon unique through our coexistence, open mindedness and the democracy to do as you wish!”
For some, the sheikh's words were not surprising.
“Yea that's why I left religion, cuz of people like you,” Fatima Sadek said in response to someone defending Ilani. “Seriously you leave all the problems of the world and you focus on the silliest of things."
“This sheikh can leave the country if he does not like how people celebrate the holidays.”
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