26 December 2012

Fatwa against Christmas and Facebook

In a normal course of events I would have skipped this blighted subject: verbal shenanigans of a certain imam or pastor or rabbi are interesting only in direct proportion to their stupidity or funniness or hatefulness. That one was hardly exceptional, so that Ynet article wasn't of much interest to me. It says:

Australia's biggest mosque, The Lakemba, issued a Fatwa on Facebook against Christmas, stating that Muslims who will celebrate the holy day would be committing a "sin." The mosque later took down the online post after it drew wide condemnation from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Well, and then I would have forgotten it altogether, the problem was that Google brought up a few other articles on the subject, including (for instance) that one:

Christmas message written in sky above Lakemba Mosque in response to fatwa claims
The Lebanese Muslim Association claims it organised for a festive message be written in the sky above Lakemba Mosque following reports of a fatwa being declared on Christmas.
Fair enough, and the incident could be considered over and done with.

My problem is with Facebook's role in this case, as it was reported in Ynet. If you read the Ynet article, it may appear that the issue started and ended with placing a stupid proclamation on Facebook. But only when you read the Australian article linked above, you shall see what really happened:
The sky message comes after an Imam at Australia's biggest mosque reportedly issued a fatwa against Christmas, warning followers it is a ''sin'' to even wish people a Merry Christmas.

The ruling, which followed a similar lecture during Friday prayers at Lakemba Mosque, was posted on its Facebook site on Saturday, according to media reports.
So the story didn't really start with Facebook:
The head imam at Lakemba, Sheikh Yahya Safi, reportedly told the congregation during Friday prayers they should not have anything to do with Christmas.
It is only later that some folks decided to tone down the incident, ascribing it to a mistake by a young (and eager, I guess) member of the congregation:
The original post came from text copied and pasted from the internet by junior members of staff and the mosque did not endorse the message, the Lebanese Muslim Association said.
Samier Dandan, the president of the association told ABC television the Facebook post was a mistake by a youth officer.
"We have given him a warning," he said.
What a pile of crapola...

But really, the problem we are facing here is beyond the story of an overzealous cleric and his hypocritical brethren - these could be found in every religion. The issue is that a Facebook message and surrounding brouhaha easily overshadow and distort the reality and the meaning of an event. It goes to show what kind of an "information age" we are living in currently.

Oh well. A billion users can't be wrong, after all.