There's debate in the Muslim community after a Sydney organisation appeared to tell its followers not to engage in any Christmas celebrations with neighbours.
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23 Dec 2012 - 7:04 PM  UPDATED 26 Aug 2013 - 10:48 AM



Islamic leaders have distanced themselves from the comments, while the organisation at the heart of the row says it's all been a terrible mistake.

Just days before Christmas, and Sydney's Lakemba Mosque has found itself at the centre of another storm.

Newspaper readers woke on Sunday to read of a so-called Fatwa against Christmas, a religious edict following a sermon given at the mosque.

Community leaders were quick to distance themselves.

"When you see your neighbour and they're having a festive occasion, you should be happy that they're happy," said Keysar Trad from the Federation of Islamic Councils.

The furore stems from postings on the Facebook page of the mosque, which called on Muslims not to exchange Christmas greetings with Christians.

This followed a sermon given on Friday where some attendees expressed concern at a sermon which suggested Muslims should steer clear of any Christmas celebrations.

As comments - many vitriolic - gathered on the Facebook page - Australia's Grand Mufti was keen on clearing a few things up.

"The principle of Islam says if you are given a greeting then return the greeting, or even, give a better greeting,' said Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammad.

He says the ideology behind the sermon has its roots as far back as the 12th century - when Muslim lands were being invaded - and he quesitons its relevance in 2012.

"There's nothing wrong with studying it, but it would be a serious mistake to apply history out of context."

It's not the first time the mosque has been in the spotlight, but this time the association running its Facebook page said the posting was unauthorised and not representative of its views.

The Lebanese Muslim Association said the sermon was only encouraging Muslims to maintain their religious identity - and the Facebook post was put there by a junior staff member without permission.

"He is not well-versed from an Islamic perspective to actually know whether this is something he should have on there or not," said Samir Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association.

"It's not reflective of the board, not reflective of the Lebanese Muslim Association, nor reflective of Muslim leaders.'

He said the festive greetings in the sky above the mosque, were nothing but coincidence.