Muslim students who attend a Catholic university in Chicago recently lamented to the school newspaper that Christmas is overcelebrated while Islamic holidays are disproportionately undercelebrated.
What’s going on?
The story, titled, “Religious Holidays Aren’t Represented Equally on Campus,” makes the case that all religious holidays should be celebrated equally on campus — despite a large disparity between religions at Loyola University.
In fact, 60 percent of students at Loyola self-identify as Roman Catholic, while a large majority of the rest identify as a Protestant denomination. The remaining students identify with Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. According to the Loyola Phoenix, there are only about 800 Muslims on a campus of nearly 17,000 students.
The story begins:
It’s that time of year again, and Loyola has decked out its buildings with decorations for the holiday season. But Christmas gets more attention on campus than other religious holidays.
Although Loyola fosters a space for non-Christian religions to practice their faith — such as in the Damen Student Center’s second floor of Ministry Offices for Muslim, Hindu and Jewish students — there is a lack of public festivity compared to Christmas, such as decorations and activities of other religions’ holidays the entire student body could be part of.
The story then follows Sajid Ahmed, a leader in the Student Muslim Association, as he laments about too much Christmas and not enough Islamic tradition.
What did he say?
Ahmed told the Loyola Phoenix that the major Islamic holidays — Eid al-Fitr (in June) and Eid al-Adha (in August) — are “a bit dampened just because you have to go about your normal routine.”
“At home, it’d be a big family thing, dress up and go to the mosque. We’d spend the day together and celebrate … compared to that, college Eid has been less,” he said.
The Phoenix noted that Loyola decorates its campus for Christmas, holds a tree lighting ceremony and has many Christmas-related activities for the entire student body.
Ahmed said the Eids are celebrated in Muslim countries much like Christmas is celebrated in Western countries, including lights and decorations.
“For someone who lives far away and doesn’t have the opportunity to meet up with family, I would say making Loyola’s Eid as festive as possible would be great so that [Muslim students] can feel connected with their heritage and with their religion,” he said.
What did the school say?
Bryan Goodwin, associate director of the student complex, told the Phoenix that demographics don’t decide which religious holidays are celebrated campuswide and said Christmas isn’t about Christianity, but the feeling of the season.
“I don’t think [demographics] ever come to our minds in terms of the decisions that we make with Christmas,” Goodwin said. “I think what guides it … doesn’t have to do with faith, it has to do with that most common sort of feeling [of the season].”
He added that the university has tried to disassociate Christmas with Christianity by saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” and that the school would be thrilled to celebrate other religious holidays.
“We feel that we do a good job at the student center of allowing other faiths to [join the holiday season]. We pride ourselves on wanting to make sure we’re aware. We always lend ourselves the conversation,” he said.