Muslim Man Smashes Stereotypes by Giving the Homeless Christmas Presents

Nubaid Haroon set out to help people who are less fortunate and dispel myths about Islam.
Dec 25, 2015·
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Generosity, goodwill, peace, and love—those are just some of the virtues associated with the spirit of Christmas. But at a time when anti-Islamic prejudice is on the rise in some parts of the world, a video by 23-year-old U.K. resident Nubaid Haroon serves as a heartwarming reminder that such qualities transcend religious differences.

As seen in the clip above, Haroon decided to play Santa on the streets of London and give gifts to people in need. He purchased presents with his own money, wrapped them, and distributed the festive packages to the homeless. Along with helping out folks who have fallen on tough times, Haroon also set out to dispel stereotypes about Muslims.

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“I think that a lot of people think because Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas that we don’t accept it when people celebrate Christmas,” wrote Haroon in an email to TakePart. “But in reality my family give chocolates and food to neighbors/friends regardless of their race/religion. It’s just about being one with the community.”

The video captures the surprised reactions of homeless people when they realize Haroon is offering them a gift. But that’s not the only thing that caught them off guard. “A few did ask questions as to why I was offering them gifts when it wasn’t something that stereotypically Muslims celebrate. I was more than happy to share my opinions with them and explain how important it is to spread love,” Haroon wrote.

Challenging the misconceptions people have about Islam has become a priority for Haroon. In late November, after the terrorist attacks in Paris, he made a video recording the reactions of the public when he stood on the streets of London with a sign that read, “I am Muslim. I Want to Spread Love + Peace. Hug me?”

Some commenters on this latest video’s YouTube page have criticized Haroon’s emphasis on his Islamic faith and identity and have suggested that he simply say he is a “human” performing acts of kindness. But Haroon wrote that the video’s concept of “being a Muslim and giving presents was to highlight the fact that Muslims accept all religions and celebrations but some people don’t know that.”

Indeed, a survey released in November by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 56 percent of Americans believe the values of Islam are at odds with America’s values and way of life, a jump from 47 percent in 2011.

As for what he’d like people to do in their own communities after watching his video, Haroon has one Christmas wish: “Ideally, I’d just like people to go out and just take into consideration how other people are/how they feel rather than stereotyping everyone in the same way,” he wrote. “Whether that person is Muslim/homeless or whatever they are. We’re all the same, and that’s the notion I want to spread.”