Can Muslims Celebrate Halloween?

October brings with it another problem for Muslims: Is it all right for us to celebrate Halloween?

On the blog GOATMILK, as part of its ongoing series of debates,  a guest blogger recently wrote an article about why Muslims should be allowed to practice Halloween. (See article here.) Basically her reasoning went like this:

Other cultural practices lack an Islamic origin or a pure history, but have permeated into the fabric of our lives, and have evolved to become part of mainstream Muslim culture, too, like engagement rings, white wedding dresses and even the Hajj. …

Halloween allows kids to participate in a larger community outside their homes and classrooms.  Think about how Muslim kids appear/feel when they are barred from partaking in Halloween activities. How would Muslims appear to the world if we shunned the Olympics? …

Halloween is a cultural tradition that should be as permissible and mainstream to American Muslims as sporting events or other cultural traditions here. …

I have a few problems with her premises. First of all, Halloween is not on the same par as the Olympics.

Although many Halloween customs have their origins in pagan rituals, the holiday itself was given a religious spin by the Christian Church. According to Wikipedia:

It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, and All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving onto the next world. To avoid being recognized by a soul, Christians would wear masks and costumes to disguise themselves, following the lighted candles set by others to guide their travel for worship the next day.

Secondly, if we followed the author’s criteria, it would also be permissible to receive gifts from Santa Claus or participate in Easter egg hunts. Those practices have become secularized and commercialized, but they still have ties to religious doctrine. Giving gifts at Christmas is in imitation of the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus; the egg is the symbol of new life, as in Jesus’ resurrection. To pretend that they are merely secular inventions is a way of kidding ourselves that there is no harm in observing them.

Thirdly, since when do we decide what practices are haram and halal by how much they alienate us from non-Muslims? By that reasoning, we shouldn’t wear Islamic clothing, or use Arabic phrases in our speech, or pray five times a day, or do any number of things that make us seem different from other Americans.

On the contrary, we should stand proud as Muslims and insist on our right to be considered American, too. What kind of country would this be if everyone had to be alike? And what are we teaching our children if we allow them to conform to the majority just to be accepted?

I’m not saying that I think we should avoid doing everything that is not distinctly Islamic. Even Muslims don’t agree about what exactly is halal and haram. But one thing we do agree on is that our religion is unique. People should be able to tell the difference between a Muslim and everyone else.