Circulating message features a photograph depicting a newspaper headline that screams “Christmas is banned: IT Offends Muslims”.
Christmas is NOT being banned. The image depicts an article reportedly published by The Daily Express back in 2005. Even when it was first published, the story was inaccurate sensationalist nonsense. Both the original article and its current social media reincarnation were apparently designed to fuel divisiveness and damaging myths associated with Muslims and Christmas and further a particular political agenda.
A message currently circulating on Facebook features a photograph showing part of the front page of a newspaper with the screaming headline “Christmas is banned: It Offends Muslims”. The text of the pictured news article describes how Britain’s proud heritage suffered a devastating blow after council chiefs banned Christmas, supposedly in an attempt to appease Muslims.
The circulating message consists solely of the image without any added commentary from its perpetrator. Predictably, the message is generating a good deal of angst and anger amidst many of those who encounter it. Which can be reasonably assumed was the intention of the person who launched the message to begin with.
But, things are not what they seem.
Firstly, the unspoken implication inherent in the circulating message is that the featured newspaper article is recent. The message – quite conveniently – omits both the publication date and the name of the newspaper. However, the message was reportedly published on 2 November 2005 in the UK’s Daily Express newspaper.
Secondly, and more importantly, the featured article contained highly misleading and inaccurate information to begin with. The author of the article was obviously familiar with the cynical pseudo-journalistic adage to “never let the truth stand in the way of a good story”.
In an insightful and in-depth piece on the alienation of Muslims in some communities, authors Peter Oborne and James Jones discuss the Daily Express article, noting:
On 2 November 2005 the Daily Express splashed its front page on the story, “Christmas is banned: it offends Muslims”. The story reported that Lambeth council had re-labelled its “Christmas lights” as “celebrity lights” or as “winter lights”.
This seemed the ultimate proof that Muslims were undermining the British way of life and attacking our most sacred traditions, as the first paragraph of the Express story made clear. It read: “Britain’s proud heritage suffered a devastating blow yesterday after council chiefs banned Christmas.” The article went onto carry a chorus of denunciation, including from a Church of England spokesman, Steve Jenkins, who was quoted as saying: “I thought we were over all this stuff. I thought people had stopped this”. Jenkins added: “We would not call Diwali lights celebrity lights would we?” But one thing seemed suspicious about the Express front page. Besides the stark, attentionseeking headline, there was no evidence at all the Muslims had had anything to do with the decision by Lambeth council to change the name of its Christmas lights.
When we investigated the story we found there was a very good reason for this: they didn’t. We discovered that the front page splash was based on a report by journalist Greg Truscott of the South London Press that Lambeth council had dropped references to Christmas. This carefully written and researched story, printed on page five, made no mention at all of Muslims. When we interviewed Truscott, he told us that his story had been traded on to the Express by a local stringer who specialised in selling on local stories. He added that he was shocked about the way his story had been twisted and taken out of context.
In short, the same ugly process was at work that created the false “Hounded Out” front page in the Sun . A carefully written story deep in a local paper was catapulted onto the front page of a tabloid through the easy expedient of adding the word Muslim to the headline. Lambeth council said that the entire story, not merely the Muslim involvement but also the claim that Christmas had been banned, was deeply misleading: “Christmas was going on as usual, the Christmas tree was up in the town hall, the usual Christmas carols were being sung, the lights were up.The different names really were born out of inconsistency, they were never the official council policy, yet it escalated into this huge story.”
In fact, every year such “Christmas Ban” rumours circulate with nauseating predictability. Not only in the UK, but also in Australia, the US and other nations as well. And the fault for such “bans” is almost invariably laid at the feet of Muslims and politically correct governments or store managers.
Of course, occasionally some council or group may actually bow to misguided political correctness and try to limit certain Christmassy language or activities. But, claims of widespread bans on Christmas are simply nonsense. A small minority of more radical Muslims living in Western nations may claim to find Christmas celebrations offensive. But, most ordinary Muslims are not concerned at all if their neighbours or communities celebrate Christmas. Many, in fact, celebrate Christmas themselves. British Journalist Shamim Chowdhury, herself a Muslim, explains in a 2012 Huffington Post article:
[D]espite what the Daily Mail will have its readers believe, Christmas is as special for many Muslims as it is for the mainstream population. It does not mean we have given up our core beliefs – it must be stressed here that we categorically do not celebrate the birth of Jesus – it is simply a pronouncement of our respect for the customs of the land and a celebration of multiculturalism. [….]Naturally there will be plenty of Muslims who will choose not to acknowledge the day at all, instead treating it as any other day. They may take the opportunity to clear out that kitchen cupboard, tackle a stack of overdue ironing or study the Koran. If so, this is their right and no-one has the authority to object. This is what living in a free society means. What they won’t be doing however, is protesting on the streets calling for Christmas to be banned or requesting the beheading of the infidel. They will simply go about their business in a quintessentially English manner – quietly and without fuss. Sorry to disappoint you, Daily Mail.
Year after year, irate messages circulate decrying how shopping malls are set to ban Christmas so as not to offend Muslim customers. But, year after year, from November on, shopping centres begin playing cheesy Christmas music, fat Santas clutch struggling babies forced to sit on their laps, and gaudy tinsel festoons store ceilings. Huge plastic Christmas Trees take pride of place in shopping mall foyers.
Year after year, councils, schools and other organisations run ever-popular Christmas parades, pageants and fetes. Bright-eyed youngsters come from school proudly holding Christmas craft items that they have made in class.
All I can say is that the people who believe these absurd stories mustn’t get out much.