LONDON (Reuters) – Muslim leaders joined Britain’s equality watchdog Monday in urging Britons to enjoy Christmas without worrying about offending non-Christians.
“It’s time to stop being daft about Christmas. It’s fine to celebrate and it’s fine for Christ to be star of the show,” said Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Mr. Phillips, reflecting on media reports of schools scrapping nativity plays and local councils celebrating “Winterval” instead of Christmas, worried the unintended consequences of secularizing the holiday would “fuel community tension.”
So he joined forces with minority religious leaders to put out a blunt message to the politically correct: leave Christmas alone.
Muslim Council of Britain spokesman Shayk Ibrahim Mogra said, “To suggest celebrating Christmas and having decorations offends Muslims is absurd. Why can’t we have more nativity scenes in Britain?”
“Hindus celebrate Christmas, too. It’s a great holiday for everyone living in Britain,” said Anil Bhanot, general secretary of the UK Hindu Council.
Sikh spokesman Indarjit Singh said: “Every year I am asked ‘Do I object to the celebration of Christmas?’ It’s an absurd question. As ever, my family and I will send out our Christmas cards to our Christian friends and others.”
More than 70 percent of Britons – some 41 million – are Christian, according to 2001 census figures. Muslims are the second-largest religious group with about 1.6 million in Britain.
Suicide bombings by British Islamic extremists in July 2005, which killed 52 people in London, have prompted much soul-searching about religion and integration in Britain, a debate that has been echoed across Europe.
The threat of radical Islam, highlighted by the July attacks, prompted reflection about Britain’s attitude to ethnic minorities and debate about whether closer integration was more important than promoting multiculturalism.