It is only early October, but as the leaves begin to fall and the weather turns cooler, the country is slowly turning its head towards Christmas. Companies are sending out their Christmas invites to employees. Supermarkets and high street shops are preparing themselves for bumper sales. People are planning Christmas trips away to New York, the Carribbean and Australia. And, somewhere, in some council, some members of a local authority will look at a planned nativity or some overt display of Christianity at a school, hospital or some other part of the public sphere, deem it offensive to minorities, and rule it be banned.
The real irony of such displays of 'sensitivity' is that they are a form of unthinking racism; a patronising attempt to 'read' the 'mind of the minority' and deem what they might find 'offensive'. Such steps merely hand ammunition to the real bigots and racists who mysteriously find their lost Christian roots at this time of year, and wish to reinforce the myth of Britain being 'swamped' by 'outsiders'.
In fact, anecdotal evidence would suggest that minorities, especially religious minorities (i.e. Muslims), support such displays of Christianity (however nominal) and do not, in anyway, find nativity plays and the like "offensive" (I point out Muslims because they're the most likely target of such stories, since Jews get a free pass, Hindus are usually more worried about stamps, and no one knows what Sikhs think.) Certainly, I can see lots of more observant and conservative Muslims nodding their heads in agreement with Rowan Williams' comments that he made last year, on promoting a more Christian Christmas:
"The truth is [other religious people will] usually [be] much happier with the idea of a Christian festival than with some general excuse to have a good time in midwinter."
So, I ask these local authorities who run councils, schools and hospitals not to violate the humanity of people who are considered 'minorities' and put words in their mouths by assuming they'll find something 'offensive'. I ask them to stop providing ammunution to bigots. I ask them to consider the traditions of this country. Putting up lights, trees and singing carols is not offensive and should not be considered so. Specifically, as a Muslim, I ask them to consider that in Muslim India, the nativity appeared in a Muslimised format, and that there is no major theological disagreement between Islamic and Christian narratives on the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him) (or none that I am aware of). I'd be happy to be considered a part of any Christmas which thinks more about the spirit of goodness and humanity, and is more about helping the poor, sheltering the homeless, defending the abused, standing with the reviled, shielding the hated and protecting the tortured, as opposed to one which glorifies desires in a mass orgy of Randian selfishness that underpins consumero-fascism.
A Concerned Muslim