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In Santa's bag: booze, drugs and immorality, Turkish Muslim group says

By Michael Pearson and Gul Tuysuz, CNN
updated 4:54 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
A Turkish Muslim group protests and hold signs reading 'Christmas is incompatible with Islam' during a demonstration in Istanbul on December 26.
A Turkish Muslim group protests and hold signs reading 'Christmas is incompatible with Islam' during a demonstration in Istanbul on December 26.
  • Turkish Muslim youth group condemns Santa for bringing booze, drugs and immorality
  • The same group stabbed a Santa blow-up prop in 2010
  • Many secular Muslims in Turkey display Santas at this time of year
  • Santa's 4th Century role model, St. Nicholas, came from southern Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- The day after Christmas was a tough one for Santa in his ancestral homeland of Turkey.

A Muslim youth group held a demonstration Thursday in Istanbul, blasting the "jolly old elf" of legend and lore for contributing to moral decay and urging residents to turn against him.

"Traditions such as new year celebrations, Christmas tree decorations, and Santa Claus leaving presents are leading to degeneration of our culture and leading to identity crises in our society. It tears our youth from their own culture and familiarizes them with the culture of the West leading them to embrace those values," the Anatolia Youth Association said in a statement.

The group used an inflatable plastic Santa as a prop -- littering the ground below it with beer cans, a syringe and a cross to illustrate the dangers of inviting Santa into Turkish homes.

They also distributed an image of a man delivering a brutal left hook to Santa's bearded cheek.

Three years ago, the same group stabbed a blow-up Santa.

Such sentiments are not widespread in Turkey.

Many secular Muslims in Turkey decorate their homes with Christmas trees and Santas -- known in Turkey as "Noel Baba," or Father Christmas. They exchange gifts not on Christmas, but rather New Year's Day.

Despite Thursday's unpleasantness, Turkey and ol' Claus go way back -- all the way to 4th Century. That's when, as religious tradition has it, the Christian St. Nicholas secretly gifted money and other items to residents around his home in what is now the southern Turkish city of Demre, becoming the model for the modern Santa Claus.

CNN's Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta; Gul Tuysuz reported from Istanbul.

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