In 2014, an activist from conservative Muslim group Isma argued that greeting others with 'Merry Christmas' was considered by Islamic texts to be 'haram,' or forbidden. But this interpretation is flawed, according to Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, a senior authority on the matter in Malaysia.
For practicing Muslims, the friendly gesture is permissible when used to celebrate the holidays of people of other faith groups, the Mufti said in a statement. "It’s no more than a mere greeting to express happiness and enjoyment upon seeing the happiness of those celebrating," he added, noting a 2007 Muzakarah National Fatwa Committee Council in Islamic Affairs meeting. At that meeting, Islamic leaders concluded that as long as communications with non-Muslims did not glorify other religions wishing Christians a Merry Christmas was harus.
Muslim scholars from Cairo extended an olive branch to their Christian and Catholic brethren in 2007, when 138 Islamic scholars signed a message wishing a 'Merry Christmas' to Pope Benedict XVI as well as Christian clergy around the world. The dignitaries said that media coverage of extremist groups had created a "distorted" picture of Islam while neglecting to focus on the predominantly peaceful and tolerant branches of the faith.