An all caps newspaper headline that reads “CHRISTMAS IS BANNED: IT OFFENDS MUSLIMS” has been circulating on social media.
The image appears to be a genuine photograph showing a page in a British less-than-stellar tabloid paper called The Daily Express. It was authored back in 2005 by journalists Tom Whitehead and Nick Fagge, and has circulated during the run-up to Christmas for a number of years since. However, as often the case with tabloid “journalism”, the headline is completely over-sensationalised and the actual story is both misleading and consistently inaccurate.
Many in the British tabloid media press have a quite poor reputation for accurate reporting, especially when it comes to dealing with stories relating to religious minorities, especially followers of Islam. Such tabloid papers have a history of opting for melodramatic and scandalous headlines designed to attract readers as opposed to writing accurately, and it is this type of inaccurate reporting that often leads to the circulation of false rumours and propaganda.
Despite the impudent nature of The Daily Express headline, Christmas has not been “banned”. A closer inspection of the story reveals that it refers to a 2005 incident in Lambeth in South London, where a “junior council official” had claimed the annual decorative Christmas lights were to be referred to as Winter Lights “for fear of offending other faiths”.
The council subsequently asserted that the decision to refer to the lights as Winter Lights was a local, junior-level decision and did not reflect council policy. The term “Winter Lights” was never meant to go into print nor was it ever the decorative lights official name. Additionally, there was – and never has been – any ban on Christmas lights or their name, and there were no reports that the council had received complaints over any Christmas decorations or Christmas themed references.
A council spokesperson later added –
The suggestion Christmas has been banned is absolutely ridiculous… usual Christmas tree will be up in the Town Hall, the usual Christmas carols will be sung and we’re looking forward to the Christmas lights being switched on.
Despite this being a non-story from start to finish, this is the type of miscommunication that is jumped upon by trashy tabloid media looking to create headlines that will increase circulation and appeal to their established user base. As such, The Daily Express opted to go with a headline boldly stating that “Christmas is banned” because it offends Muslims. Which is not even close to the truth.
In reality this is just one of many stories to bolster the “war on Christmas” narrative promoted by the far-right who believe (or want others to believe) that a countries cultural or religious traditions are being muted or diluted because of the effects of immigration. Such propaganda is rarely based on any substance, and that certainly appears to be the case here.