Halloween’s Gifts for Muslims

As my Facebook newsfeed fills up with images of Bangladeshis going gaga over Halloween costumes and parties, there have been more important developments around the world. Two things seemed particularly relevant to Muslims.

In the first update, Sweden has become the biggest (Western) European, EU-member country to recognize a Palestinian state. The linked report sort of dismisses the Swedish government by saying its ‘left-leaning’ (and hence capable of yodeling, patronizing dog-sledding or siding with those crazy Muslims!). But it’s good news since it sets a precedence.

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It’s sad news because we have to make such a big deal out of a long-overdue act of justice, decency and civility. Like today’s spoiled kids, these European countries constantly clamor for incentives, even for the most routine of tasks. Let’s not forget that 134 other countries had already beaten Sweden to it.

Still, kudos to Sweden.

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The second update is that our dear, dear Walmart has introduced a ‘Muslim costume’ for this Halloween. In what is described as a ‘Pashtun Papa’ costume – a figure who looks like a Taliban man menacingly juggles invisible balls with a sinister beard-smothered grin on his brown face. The post from their website said “Shock your friends with this Islamic costume.”

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Meh! Walmart’s role in allowing Islamophobic products, comments and attitudes isn’t entirely shocking. Last year, they were forced to fire an employee who made ghoul-related comments about burqa-clad, Muslim women (later, Muslim groups requested Walmart to reinstate the employee – out of respect for his freedom of speech on social media).

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The company’s blatant monetization of Islamophobia and xenophobia is without parallel. And I see their logic too: if it’s Muslims that frighten people – if it has really come to that – then it should definitely be a Halloween costume. Any company that can market a fat girl costume, is capable of anything for profits. Who cares about the social consequences of such actions? Thankfully, Walmart was forced by a angry mob of online Tweeters and Facebookers to withdraw the item and issue an apology. But don’t be too crestfallen. Check out what you can still get from them …

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Happy Halloween! 

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Halloween originated from an ancient, pagan festival celebrated by Celtic people over 2,000 years ago. Celts believed that the dead could walk among the living, just after harvest season, or Samhain (hence, the pumpkins). Some of them wore ghoulish costumes so that wandering spirits would mistake them for one of their own and leave them alone. They even offered sweets to appease the spirits. In medieval Europe, the Catholic clergy adopted local pagan customs and had their adherents go from house to house wearing costumes and requesting small gifts.

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8 comments

  1. halloween sucks! just another way to get people to spend money. those companies like woolworths have tried for some years to introduce halloween here in australia with some degree of sucess i have to say, tho nothing like the usa! and as for islamaphobia … well i have to say, ashamed to say, that my government, the australian government is doing all it can, in its ignorance, to foster the public’s fears. May the world regain its equilibrium… : ] trees

    • Yeah Trees, now imagine my bewilderment when all my friends / their siblings or children are dressing up for halloween in dear ol’ Dhaka. We literally know nothing of the occasion other than you can go crazy on the makeup and/or costume. It is just another excuse to buy stuff and blindly follow what we see on TV. I think it futile without the cultural, historical and religious context.

  2. Fascinating article – Walmart continues to disgust me by its attitude to just about everything as far as I can see.

    To add slightly to your definition of ‘Halloween’ if I may – the title is entirely Christian and is originally from ‘Hallowed Eve’ being the ‘eve’ before All Soul’s Day which follows it. Like Christmas and Easter, it took over the pagan festival which celebrates the the sacrifice of the god, the sun king – hence the fascination with death.

    • Hello Ken bhai …great to hear from you after quite a while. That definitely adds more nuances to my understanding of Halloween. And that was exactly my point – we, Bangladeshis (mostly Muslims), are so completely oblivious of what it stands for – yet we won’t stop blindly observing it. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the origin, the symbolisms or the rituals are – as long as people can spend, drink and dance. That, in unkind words, is what we’ve become.

      Hope to see you here more often. I do look forward to your comments. Love to the family. Hope the kids have settled back in by now.

      • Thank you bhai – yes I’ve been struggling, while building my business as a writer, to juggle all the blogs I love to follow – including yours.

        The kids are doing fine and, on the whole and despite some horrid things which have happened on the way, we’re settling well. 🙂

  3. Considering I am a Pakistani but of Muhajir origins, I work across the country and I also am aware that Pushtuns clan are hot headed, this is so not going to be taken positively by them. White supremacy is dripping all over, and making fun of native is quite a norm in the western world.
    Great post and amazing blog.

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