Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bah, Humbug: who is the worst Scrooge of Christmas 2015?

I have been giving some thought to the question of who is the worst Scrooge for Christmas 2015.

Obviously, Jeremy Corbyn, who sent an EID message to Muslims (as did David Cameron, and it is not the EID message I am criticising) and a Diwali message to Hindus, but then declined to send a Christmas message, is a strong contender.

However, there are two reasons why he will escape my nomination.

Jeremy Corbyn's worldview, policies and style of  leadership are creating an existential crisis for the Labour party and many of his policies would be an even bigger disaster for the country if he were elected. If he is still leader at the time of the 2020 election - and unless he falls under the proverbial bus that is likely, as the moderates have no clear mechanism to remove him and any attempt to do so would look like contempt for Labour party members - we need to be in a position to call out just how disastrous many of those policies would be.

In fact, I think that Conservatives and the right should stop jumping all over Corbyn's trivial mistakes, of which there have been so many, and keep our powder dry for the serious ones.

If the public is used to hearing Conservatives and the right denounce Jeremy Corbyn several times a day for things like failing to send a Christmas message or failing to bow deeply enough at a ceremony, there is a danger that they will regard denouncing everything he does as our default position and assume we would attack Corbyn for carrying an umbrella when it is forecast to rain.

This in turn creates a real risk that the electorate will not pay attention to the really serious criticisms, when we try to explain why we think Jeremy Corbyn's economic policies will destroy wealth and jobs or why his defence policy will leave Britain less safe.

And as it happens there is a far stronger contender for the worst scrooge of Christmas 2015 - the Sultan of Brunei, who has banned open celebrations of Christmas in his country on the spurious grounds that putting up Christmas decorations or singing carols could damage the faith of Muslims.

Brunei, a small and oil-rich country on the island of Borneo with a population of about 420 thousand of whom around two-thirds are Muslims, allows the remainder of the population to celebrate Christmas, but only within their communities, and they must first alert the authorities.
Brunei's Ministry of Religious Affairs said in a statement:

"These enforcement measures are ... intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the aqidah (beliefs) of the Muslim community."

In a warning to Muslims earlier this month, a group of Imams warned that any celebration "not in any way related to Islam” could lead to "‘tasyabbuh’ (imitation) and unknowingly damage the ‘aqidah’ (faith) of Muslims".

It's not just that this is a petty, mean, sectarian and intolerant thing to do to those of his people who might want to share the celebration of Christmas.

And never mind the fact that if the aqidah of Muslims in Brunei is so weak that it could be undermined by putting up a Christmas tree and a few fairy lights, giving presents and singing a carol or two, it was hardly a faith worth having in the first place.

The main reason I am disappointed in this childish act of petty tyranny is that for an Islamic country to restrict Christmas celebrations risks pumping oxygen into a myth about what Muslims in the West believe which the extreme right have been exploiting and which informed and tolerant people have tried to debunk; the myth that our Muslim neighbours want to stop us celebrating Christmas.

Despite what the BNP and their ilk would have you believe, 99% of attempts in this country to limit Christmas celebrations by politically correct councils and organisations have not come from Muslims. They have come from atheists or agnostics who don't like any public religious celebration.

Unfortunately the proponents of bans on public celebration of Christmas have often used multiculturalism as an excuse for what is really the first stage of an attack on all religions, arguing that such celebrations might offend Muslims and followers of other non-Christian religions.

And sadly, part of the collateral damage has been community relations because the Muslims have unjustly been blamed for attempts to block Christmas celebrations - something which groups like the BNP and EDL have been very quick to exploit.

In fact, the idea that Muslim residents of Britain don't want us to celebrate Christmas is complete and utter rubbish. Two of the Christmas messages I have received this year were from prominent Muslims (and, incidentally, another from a Hindu, and I've also had them from Jewish people.)

Since Jesus is the second most important figure in the Muslim religion after Mohammed, the idea that celebrating his birth is Haram (forbidden by Islam) is nothing short of ridiculous to many devout Muslims. I have never forgotten visiting a mosque and being told by the Imam that the message of Jesus was an essential part of his religion. I am told that the fuller version of a saying summarising the creed of Islam, of which most Christians only know the first six words and the last five, is

"There is no God but Allah; Moses is his word, Christ is his Spirit, and Mohammed is his Prophet."

The three great monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - are all worshipping the same God, and there is not one word in the sacred books of any of them which justifies persecuting the others. It is an utter tragedy that so much such persecution has taken place. There was no place for it in the past and there is no place for it I the 21st Century.

The Sultan of Brunei and the Imams who urged him to restrict Christmas celebrations should hang their heads in shame. They are a disgrace to their religion, which they have brought into disrepute, and their actions may well be used by extremists to whip up hatred for innocent Muslims.

So I nominate the Sultan of Brunei as the Scrooge of 2015.


Anonymous said...

"There is no God and Dirac is his Prophet" - Wolfgang Pauli

Chris Whiteside said...

Slight inconsistency there! Happy Christmas to you too!