The decision by a New York village to place the Islamic star and crescent alongside the community’s official Christmas tree has a Catholic leader wondering if there are any wise men among the town’s leaders.
Supervisors for Armonk, N.Y. voted to display a menorah and a star and crescent at tonight’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the town’s gazebo.
“We’ve decided to go in the direction of being all-inclusive,” Supervisor Reese Berman told Associated Press.
The village had added the menorah previously. Last year, town resident Asad Jilani, saying the Christmas season is an appropriate time to celebrate all cultures, asked the board to include Islamic symbols as well.
“I said ‘Oh, there’s a menorah and a Christmas tree and where is my crescent?’” said Jilani.
Berman, who is Jewish, said the town did not have time to adequately address Jilani’s request last year and, to not make Muslims feel they were being specifically excluded, the menorah was removed to a local synagogue.
“The last thing I was suggesting was to move the menorah,” Jilani said. “I wanted this to be for openness, for representing everyone.”
This year, after a committee researched the law and what was being done in other communities, Armonk leaders voted to include the star and crescent, even though the closest Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha does not always fall in December.
“It might have been easier to just do away with the Christmas tree and everything else but it would be too much of an assault on what we’re used to at Christmas,” said Berman.
According to the board’s guidelines, any group interested in displaying a privately-funded symbol through the Christmas season must submit a formal application. The board makes no determination as to whether a symbol is secular or religious. The process is open to all religions.
“Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans are Americans and respect other religions,” said Laila Al-Qatami, spokeswoman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington. “They know that Christmas is a big holiday and they’re glad to be included.”
That’s a sentiment that feels right to Catholic-raised Judy Wesley, director of the Armonk Chamber of Commerce.
“In my opinion there’s nothing wrong with having a spirit of inclusion,” she said. “Jesus Christ himself would have gathered everyone around him.”
Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, disagrees, saying the town has chosen to display Jewish and Islamic religious symbols while leaving out the Christian religious symbol of the season, a Nativity scene. He does not believe the Christmas tree is a religious symbol.
Further, he says, the inclusive display “shows tremendous sympathy for Jews and Muslims at the expense of the majority Christians.”
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