It is a deep insult to people of faiths other than Christian to suggest that that they might be offended by the celebration of Christmas. Yet this is exactly what a large section of the British press is doing.
It is all dressed up as a campaign against “political correctness” as in the Sun’s “Kick ’em in the baubles” campaign. If the stories were true there would be justification. But they are mostly untrue.
A year ago I looked at a couple of these stories in East Anglia and could only find distortion. Today, in the Guardian’s G2 section, Oliver Burkeman, examines the campaigns which have grown to hysterical levels this year. He debunks the myths:
Luton does not have a festival called Luminos. It does not use any alternative name for Christmas. When it did, once, five years ago, hold something called Luminos one weekend in late November, the event didn’t even replace the council’s own Christmas celebrations, let alone forbid anyone else from doing anything. Similarly, Christmas is not called Winterval in Birmingham. The Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children never banned a Christmas CD for mentioning Jesus. And Chester council’s “un-Christian” Christmas card says – as cards have done for decades – “Season’s Greetings”.
There is a tiny grain of truth in some of these stories but they can generally be traced back to low level, and undoubtedly thick, apparatchiks. But that does not mean district and city councils up-and-down the country and 75% of businesses (said to have banned Christmas decorations in the workplace) have been overtaken by politically correct madness.
For more than a decade I have taught journalism to young people of all faiths and none. They wish each other happy Eid, happy Diwali, happy Hanukkah and happy Christmas. They even send their tutors Christmas cards.
There is a very unpleasant cynicism in this campaign against political correctness. It creates a false impression of divisions between British people and, at the present time, fosters Islamophobia.
The Daily Mail had the splash headline “Campaign for a real Christmas”. The strap line disavows religious intolerance saying: “Christian and Muslim leaders unite to save festive season from political correctness.”
And the fourth paragraph which provided justification for the campaign read: “Notorious local authority attempts to stamp out Christmas include Birmingham’s decision to name its seasonal celebrations ‘Winterval’ and Luton’s attempt to change Christmas into a Harry Potter festival by renaming its festive lights ‘Luminos’.”
Unless that paragraph is true, there is nothing to campaign about. And it is not. For Christ’s sake, remember Christmas is about peace and goodwill to all men. And thank God that most British people are a lot more sensible that some newspapers.