Every year, we hear stories of Muslims wanting to ban Christmas in the capital as they feel offended and excluded by the Christian festival. Over the past years, there have been some Muslim extremists creating posters on “The Evils of Christmas”, including the British Red Cross not hanging up Christmas decorations in their stores for fear of causing offence. London360 decided took to the streets of London, to discover whether other faiths really do feel excluded during the festive period.
A campaign that is aiming to combat this notion is the Merry Christmas 4All Campaign, run by other ethnic minorities in the capital who fully embrace and enjoy celebrating Christmas. They have created a Facebook page where people from ethnic backgrounds, can post pictures and discuss their experiences of celebrating Christmas. One member, Zahed Amanullah, explains, “Every Christmas time there seems to be this narrative in the media about how Christmas is offensive to religious minorities. And we wanted to see if there was a way to help counter that image pre-emptively and to show that most people don’t have a problem with Christmas.”
Jay Lakhani, a member of the Hindu Academy (aiming to promote the ideas of religious pluralism and spirituality) believes, “A Hindu would naturally feel very comfortable to celebrate Christmas because in a way we are celebrating spirituality which underpins humanity.”
However, not all religious faiths agree with the overall celebration of Christmas by all. Zinze Bishop of the Seventh Day Adventists explains the faith’s beliefs about the festival. “As Seventh Day Adventists, we believe that with Jesus, it’s not really about his birth. It’s more about his life. I don’t think the true meaning of Christmas was ever there anyway because we don’t know when Jesus was born. There’s no proof that he was born on the 25th of December. So Christmas is more about just being with your family, doing a good deed and helping others.”
Of course, the idea that all faiths can celebrate Christmas creates the fear of the festival losing its religious meaning. This was resonated with the public’s views as we asked people on the street how they celebrated Christmas. Many believed it was simply a time to spend with family, with others not believing in the religious part of it.
However, Julian Bond, of the Christian Muslim Forum, does believe there are some specific religious aspects of the festival that can be seen in both Christianity and Islam. “The Quran talks about Jesus. And the story of the birth of Jesus is in the Quran. And the Muslims respect him as a Prophet. It is actually something we have in common with our Muslim friends”
There has also been a lot of controversy over some schools potentially banning nativity plays due to many children not coming from a Christian background. Zahed Amanullah was quick to rubbish the idea stating, “My daughter was in a nativity play this morning in her Church of England school which is about 70% Muslim. And I know a lot of the parents there, I know a lot of the kids there and they don’t have a problem with Christmas. They look forward to it. They enjoy it.”
So it seems the views of some Muslims wanting to ban Christmas are of an extremely small minority. Many faiths embrace the festivity due to the universal themes it encompasses.