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Parliament session suspended over holiday wishes

Lawmakers argue about merit of marking Prophet’s birthday

Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait’s parliament session was suspended for 15 minutes after two lawmakers sparred over the merit of exchanging wishes on the birthday of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

MP Saleh Ashoor started his speech at the session on Wednesday by offering his congratulations to Muslims on the occasion.

However, he was cut off by fellow lawmaker Khalid Al Shalimi who said that the wishes were an unwelcome innovation that did not exist at the times of the prophet and as such should not be taken up by Muslims.

However, Saleh rejected the claim and insisted on his wishes.

“What are we talking about here?” the MP asked as he addressed the parliament. “The government announced that Thursday would be an official day off to mark the Prophet’s birthday. So if we are talking about an unwelcome innovation, there should be no day off on Thursday. We have to talk sense. There were no parliaments or planes during the Prophet’s era and yet we are talking about them. I do not care what others say. Al Shalimi is not tolerant,” he said.

Al Shalimi rejected the accusation.

“I am tolerant, but you are not. Do not teach me my religion. Sit down and keep quiet,” he said.

The stand-off continued for some time before the session was suspended until the lawmakers had time to calm down.

The quarrel was a reflection of the deep divisions within the Muslim world over the occasion.

Most Muslims celebrate the anniversary by exchanging wishes, while in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco families prepare a special birthday pudding that they share with friends and neighbours.

However, conservative Muslims insist that only the eid at the end of Ramadan and the eid on the tenth day of the pilgrimage month should be celebrated in the Islamic world. All other celebrations, national or religious, should not be marked or tolerated, they say.

Salafi groups have been using social networks to discourage Muslims from celebrating the Prophet’s birthday, claiming it is an emulation of unwelcome behaviour by non-Muslims.

However, moderate Muslims dispute the arguments and insist on the tolerant values of Islam and the compassionate character of Muslims.