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12/29/2018 Iraq (International Christian Concern) – The joyful news that Iraq’s Cabinet officially declared Christmas a national holiday just in time for the celebrations was dampened on Thursday when Iraq’s Grand Mufti forbade Christmas.

Sunni cleric Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Sumaidaie issued a fatwa against Christmas which prohibits Muslims from participating in the celebrations “of the cross” and congratulating Christians during the Christmas season. The fatwa also includes a prohibition against the New Year’s celebration, which is often mistakenly assumed to be an official Christian holiday.

The violence Christians in Iraq have faced over the last two decades has gained widespread attention following the rise of ISIS in 2014. Iraqi Christians, however, have frequently warned that these waves of violence are driven by an absence of law and Islamic extremism which encourages social ostracization and discrimination even in times of peace. The Christian population in Iraq has significantly shrunk as a result of these factors.

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