Saturday, January 13, 2007

Santa in Algeria!

Picture of Tizi Ouzou

On December 24, 2006, an Algerian newspaper published an op-ed complaining indignantly about the "Christianization" of Tizi Ouzou, a Berber town in Algeria. In recent years, there have been tensions between non-Arabized Algerian Berbers and the central government.

Here are some excerpts of the Algerian article as translated by MEMRI, [links are mine] but the full article is worth reading for the entire picture:

"We couldn’t believe what our eyes saw as we roamed the streets of Tizi Ouzo [in the Algerian Berber region of Kabylie]. If it were not for this photo caught by our camera [of Santa in a sleigh pulled by goats], we would have said we were lying, and you would have said we were lying as well - and rightfully so.

"'Santa Claus' came down to the streets of Tizi Ouzo, without asking permission, and here he is… making the rounds gleefully in his carriage full of bells, attracting people who are weak in their faith and distributing 'presents' to them in the name of the Lord 'Jesus.' All this happens without anyone saying anything or raising any objection, from the Ministry of Religious Affairs to the last of those authorities who are zealous for Islam.

"Whoever walks through the streets of the Tizi Ouzo district these days will run up against the strange cultural turning away from Islamic principles, in that the city's streets show the distinctive signs of the Christian New Year holiday. This phenomenon is not limited to the Tizi Ouzo district, but [also] encompasses some of the country's major districts, and is expressed in what we see - namely, that the preparations for celebrating this occasion are comparable [in scope] to the preparations for [Islamic] religious or national celebrations, sometimes even outdoing them.

"Anyone who wanders among the food shops in this city will notice that they are devoting themselves to making Christmas cakes… The owner of one of the shops told us that on the eve of the holiday, the demand for these cakes exceeded the supply, despite their high price… He also said that sometimes, the lines of citizens who won't do without these cakes even reach outside the shop. This reflects the devotion of some residents of this region to this occasion [i.e. Christmas]. In addition, the streets of Tizi Ouzo are not without stores selling Christmas trees…"


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