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.
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.
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.”
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).
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 …
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.