As the run-up to the festive period is more or less upon us there is one persistent rumour that has once again reared its ugly head, and we’ll discuss it here.
When it comes to Islamophobic propaganda, there are few examples that work as successfully as the formula of taking some quintessential piece of culture and falsely asserting Muslims are offended by it and want it removed or banned
It works so successfully because it specifically aims to threaten what many people of Western countries hold dear – their cultural values, ideologies and traditions, and threatens to replace them with values of what many perceive to be a foreign culture.
It essentially capitalises on the popular myth spread by extreme right-wing organisations that claims countries like the US, Britain and Australia are increasingly adopting Islamic values, and that this will inevitably result in the end of what is considered Western culture.
However, claims that Muslims have been offended and want to ban or remove something are nearly always false, or at the very least isolated incidents that in no way represent the beliefs of the Muslim population in general, but because they make ideal extremist propaganda, they continue to circulate.
The banning of Christmas, or Christmas related decorations, meanings and traditions is a common example. Christmas is an important part of the Christian calendar, and is the most popular holiday in most Western cultures, and therefore it is commonly exploited by this type of propaganda.
In 2013 this rumour spread through social media thanks to an old 2005 UK Daily Express article getting re-circulated with the headline “Christmas is Banned: It Offend Muslims”. However the Daily Express isn’t known for its accurate reports and the entire incident wasn’t about any Muslims wanting Christmas banned, and it was the result of confusion at a local council in South London who briefly referred to their Christmas light as winter lights. A very similar rumour about a town in Australia also spread in 2013 as well.
This is isn’t the first time spurious tabloid reporting has caused these sorts of rumours. In 2002 another UK tabloid The Daily Mail ran with the headline “The Red Cross bans Christmas”, a completely bogus story that The Red Cross have had to debunk almost every year since it first spread (and continued to spread again every year.)
Another persistent spin-off from the Christmas-is-banned theme is the myth that the “correct” way to wish people a merry Christmas is to use the religion-generic “Seasons Greetings”. However again this is simply untrue.
It is true that, for example, many card companies do use the term “Seasons Greetings” to increase the size of their customer base and widen their demographic. But this isn’t because Muslims are offended by the term, nor should it imply that saying “Merry Christmas” is socially or morally wrong.
Christmas is not the only tradition to be exploited by this type of propaganda. Poppy selling, wearing England football shirts, alcohol, the use of the national flag and anthem, or even the use of sniffer dogs at security checkpoints have all fallen foul of this type of rumour in the past.
To summarise, there is no evidence to support the notion that Muslims living in Western cultures are – in general – offended by Christmas, and rumours spread that claim the contrary, as we’ve shown on this page, are often false, or misleading.
Whilst there may be a rise in the number of examples of religious neutrality as the holidays approach, this is an inevitable consequence of an ethnically and religiously diverse population. To say that this means Christmas is being banned, or that if offends Muslims, is simply bigoted propaganda.