Oxford City Council has announced that the winter holiday known for 2,000 years or so as “Christmas” is officially to be celebrated in the city as a “Winter Light Festival”.
The aim, of course, is to be “inclusive” and to talk up “diversity”, all those soft, warm, meaningless terms which stupid white people use when they want to show their concern for people of other colours and faiths.
The reaction from those whom they patronise in this way is wholly predictable. Sabir Hussain Mirza, chairman of the Muslim Council of Oxford, is quoted on the Oxford Mail web site as saying: “I’m really upset about this. This is the one occasion which everyone looks forward to in the year. Christians, Muslims and other religions all look forward to Christmas. This is going to be a disaster. I’m angry and very, very disappointed”.
The same site quotes Rabbi Eli Bracknell, who teaches at the Jewish Educational Centre, in Cowley Road, as saying: “It’s important to maintain a traditional British Christmas. Anything that waters down traditional culture and Christianity in the UK is not positive for the British identity”.
I describe the reaction as “predictable” because it is the consistent reaction of those who represent non-Christian faiths when the dim little drones of Britain’s local authorities do this sort of thing. Many of them positively value the traditions of their host country. The more serious thinkers are well aware that this kind of contrived inclusiveness is anything but in reality – it positively encourages differentiation, and gives food to extremists on all sides, both the non-Christian zealots (who see a step on the road to their conversion of their hosts) and the British National Party and their kind, who find easy recruits amongst those who see a further erosion of their national identity.
It is no good, of course, trying to explain this to people like Oxford Inspires (who came up with the idea) or the non-thinkers of the Oxford Labour Group. Gordon Brown may be making heavy weather of his campaign to promote Britishness, but it is based on no mere sentiment – he is well aware that we promote division by this sort of nonsense. As fast as he tries to shovel national pride into the hole, little people on the dung-heaps of local authorities shovel it out again.
Some dozy little cow from Oxford Inspires is quoted as saying “We changed the name to be more inclusive” The robotic Ed Turner, said: “We are not Christmas killers. Among councillors there’s certainly no desire to downgrade the importance or the prominence given to Christmas”.
There probably was indeed no such desire. People this stupid really cannot see what they are doing when they make gestures like this. I suspect they think, if “think” is not too grand a word for the process, that minority faiths are like other minorities – of colour, ethnicity, gender, sexual preferences, disability or age. All you have to do, in their bigoted world, is legislate to alter the balance, and if that does not work you legislate some more.
Religion does not work like that. Those whose faith is expressed with Diwali or Hakkunah do not expect the rest of us to join in. We are welcome, no doubt, just as they are welcome to share in both the religious and the secular sides of Christmas, but they would despise themselves if they compromised on their traditions for our sakes. They despise us when we do it on their account.
Both Oxford Inspires and Oxford City Council are in what one might call attacking retreat mode on the subject today. The words “inclusive” and “diversity” have gone missing in action as more senior people elbow their subordinates aside to damp down the fires.
As so often with Oxford City Council, the problem lies with people who are all heart and no brain. Anyone capable of the slightest thought would have seen the animal-trap in the path ahead and avoided it. All that was needed was a little care with the choice of words used to describe the plans. After all, like Christmas itself, this story recurs every year in a handful of councils across the country. You would think by now that someone would keep the announcement out of the hands of dim PR girls and leaden-footed plodders like Ed Turner.
The expressions “Labour-led council” and “barrow-load of monkeys” are not necessarily synonymous. One does not expect too much intellectual rigour from Oxford Labour Group, but they owe it to us, if not to themselves, to try and avoid making Oxford a laughing-stock.