The World is Not Enough would like to wish all our readers the very best for the festive season, under whatever name you know it.
My view, for what it’s worth, is that Christmas in Australia is fundamentally a secular festival, and that no-one should feel hampered by their religious views (or lack thereof) in giving or receiving Christmas greetings. But we should also be sensitive to the feelings of those who might not see things the same way.
As I put it in Crikey two years ago:
the attempt to claim Christmas as an exclusively Christian celebration is doomed to failure. From the Roman saturnalia and the anti-puritan reaction down to Charles Dickens and Coca-Cola, Christmas as we know it is the product of a bewildering and mostly non-religious variety of traditions.
But there’s always someone there to screw it up. This year it was a posting on the Facebook page of the Lakemba Mosque that argued it would be sinful for Muslims to express Christmas wishes or join in any sort of Christmas celebrations. The post, which seems never to have been approved by anyone in authority, was quickly taken down, but not before it had become a major news story that drew an outpouring of anti-Muslim comments in response.
Today, a parade of Muslim clerics have been assuring everyone that it is both good Islam and good manners to respond in kind to Christmas greetings.
All of which raises some questions:
- When the next major Islamic festival rolls around, and some fundamentalist Christian preacher tells their flock that it’s all the work of Satan, will it get anything like the sort of media attention that this weekend’s controversy did?
- If somehow it did, and a flood of comments responded by attacking Christians and Christianity in general, would that be treated with the same insouciance that anti-Muslim hatred now is?
- If, as I suggest, the answer to the first two questions is “No”, does that not indicate that the anti-Muslim brigade are not, as they claim, struggling valiantly against intolerance but rather are enlisting in the age-old war between Islam and Christianity – to which neither side comes with clean hands?
Merry Christmas, everyone.