Here’s how the Middle East views Halloween

Published October 30th, 2015 - 11:28 GMT
Jordan and Malaysia last year were among the Muslim countries that banned the holiday. (AFP/File)
Jordan and Malaysia last year were among the Muslim countries that banned the holiday. (AFP/File)

A mostly Western tradition like Halloween may still exist in the MENA region, but it's been a point of contention when raucous parties and raunchy costumes meet Muslim culture.

The Jordanian government banned Halloween parties last year, prompting the US embassy to warn Americans to cover up their costumes in public. Evidence of costumes or Halloween-themed gatherings would lead to arrests in Amman. 

While Jordan — a close ally of the US — is often considered one of the more liberal Arab countries, Halloween has been a controversial holiday for its conservative Muslim parties. Arsonists in 2012 set fire to an Amman cafe after it hosted a Halloween party, which was condemned by the local Muslim Brotherhood as Satan worship.

For the most part, Halloween is seen as a celebration practiced by the region's expats, who are often excused from Sharia law. But some Middle Eastern countries have seen the holiday grow among its citizens.

Despite the fact that Judaism also condemns pagan practices, Israeli businesses often host events and costume contests to accompany the common house parties. A WikiLeaks document showed the wealthy in Saudi Arabia also often celebrate Halloween, even though it's strictly forbidden.

The holiday is technically considered idolatry and therefore haram, forbidden by Islamic law. It began as a pagan holiday known as the Samhain festival, a day the dead roamed the Earth and the living made sacrifices in their honor. Christianity later turned the day into All Saints' Eve, but some pagan traditions survived.

Regardless, banning the holiday hasn't stopped a lot of residents in the Middle East from celebrating, even if it happens under the radar. 

By Hayat Norimine

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