3 Nov 2013 - Article No: 1786

Christmas is banned because it offends minorities newspaper headline - Internet/Facebook Rumour

Filed under: General | Internet/Facebook Rumour


collected November 2013

A newspaper headline that reads "Christmas is Banned: It Offends Muslims" is circulating Facebook.

The newspaper page appears to be genuine, featured in the Daily Express, written by two then Daily Express journalists Tom Whitehead and Nick Fagge. However, as often the case with tabloid "journalism", the headline is completely over-sensationalised and the actual story inaccurate.

The British tabloid media press has a less-than-stellar reputation for accurate reporting, especially when it comes to dealing with articles relating to religious minorities such as those who follow Islam. Such tabloid papers will opt for melodramatic and scandalous headlines 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.

In this case this picture is taken from a 2005 cover of The Daily Express, so its circulation now is rather pointless since it is far from a current story. The story outlined in the article referred to Christmas lights in the area of Lambeth, South London, which had been referenced as “Winter Lights” by the local council.

However the council 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 even meant to go into print.

Any assertion that the name change was made because it offended anyone is totally unfounded, and the block headline by The Daily Express appears to be nothing more than sensationalist nonsense. Despite the irresponsible headline, Christmas had of course not been cancelled in the area, and the holiday did not offend Muslims.

Propaganda that uses the notion that elements of English or Christian society are being banned or removed because “it offends Muslims” is actually very popular. A similar tabloid article from The Sun was misinterpreted that led people to believe English football shirts were being banned for fear of offending minorities.

This "reason" has also been falsely used to dupe readers into thinking that volunteers could not sell poppies in certain areas, that local towns could not fly the St. Georges flag and that it is unacceptable to say "Merry Christmas" which should be replaced with the religious-generic "Seasons Greetings" – all rumours which are just as spurious as the rumour in this article.

Such propaganda tends to circulate virally and can be incredibly persistent and irresponsible tabloid headlines like the one at the top of this article certainly does not help.

Bottom line – an old, inaccurate headline accompanied by an inaccurate news article to what was ultimately a [as it’s known in the journalism industry] non-story. Given that this information is not reflected in the online newspaper clipping we generally would not recommend circulating the image.

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The Internet, and social networking sites like Facebook, are perfect platforms for spreading untruths, misinformation, rumor and propaganda. Thousands of inaccurate, exaggerated, deceptive or just plain false messages are circulated every single day.

For the anti-scam community to successfully tackle this plethora of false rumours, it is important that anyone who uses the Internet be able to identify false rumours and fully understands the possible consequences of spreading false information.

We have a two part blog post that helps provide this information. Part 1 deals with how to spot and debunk Internet rumours and Part 2 deals with the reasons why you should never circulate false information.

Additionally if you have fallen for this rumour or have Facebook friends that have, you can join our growing Facebook page here.

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