The long-running children’s program, Sesame Street, wished a blessed Ramadan to celebrants on Friday, but not everyone was pleased. A number of individuals, identifying themselves as Christians who felt slighted by the lack of attention to holidays including Easter and Christmas, turned to social media to express outrage.
On Friday, the first day of Ramadan, Sesame Street used a few of their social media channels to express well wishes to those celebrating Ramadan, an Islamic observation of fasting, prayer, charity, and self-discipline. It is considered the most holy month in the Islamic calendar, and Al Jazeera described the fasting that characterizes the month as a way to learn patience, as well an act of worship and sacrifice.
However, the current political climate makes anything connected to Islam somewhat controversial, and Sesame Street‘s greeting was no exception. Posting to Facebook and the show’s primary Twitter account (there are over a dozen verified accounts for the show, characters, and other affiliates), Sesame Street simply said the following.
“Wishing you a blessed Ramadan.”
The attached image showed four muppets pointing at a crescent moon (some noted that the image was backward — whether by accident or design, it’s a reverse of the image in last year’s post), with the same wish repeated, as well as the words “Your friends at Sesame Street.”
Many praised the move, calling it tolerant, inclusive, and respectful. Other commenters soon chimed in, however, with complaints.
Most of these centered around the notion that Sesame Street had failed to give equal attention to Easter and Christmas.
“…but you actually missed the grandest one of them all: EASTER!”
“Your April 16 post, with Oscar the Grouch wearing bunny ears, doesn’t exactly compare.”
“..yet mention Christmas and they have an aneurysm.”
“Did I miss the Merry Christmas? Did I miss have a blessed Easter?”
“Please also celebrate Easter and Christmas too if you want to be so ‘inclusive’.”
It’s true that the posts celebrating Easter did not include crucifixion or Jesus returning from the tomb. However, neither do the Ramadan posts include any direct references to Allah, or to prayer or fasting — only well wishes to those participating.
On Twitter, some of the responses mirrored these, asking for the Christian belief system to be addressed in future Christmas and Easter posts. Others suggested the posts were indoctrination and celebrated Isis and terrorism.
At Christmas, too, Sesame Street‘s greetings left out the more explicitly religious aspects of the holiday, focusing on family, love, friendship, and of course, cookies.
Still, there was no shortage of these greetings. In fact, in 2016, the show’s staff tweeted no fewer than four Christmas greetings in the week leading up to December 25, three of which used the phrase “Merry Christmas.” Additional posts promoted Christmas books featuring Elmo.
In a history of inclusion, the educational program’s social media accounts have also offered viewers well wishes for Kwanzaa, and given Christmas greetings in Spanish. The inclusiveness isn’t limited to holiday greetings, either — Sesame Street also now includes a character with autism, and another who wears a hijab, and is working with outreach to empower girls across the globe.
While this inclusion may be decried by some social media users as too “liberal,” Sesame Street‘s outreach has also included special programs for children of military families, and specifically offers a toolkit for helping kids whose families are transitioning as a period of military service comes to a close.
Sesame Street‘s latest effort at making all viewers feel included and important may have upset some social media users, but reaching out to every child has always been their style.
[Featured Image by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images]