Islam4UK and a Holy War of Words

The Message of a Real Grinch: Islam4UK

Yes, I know it’s a surprise. Fundamentalist Christians hate Islam and well…fundamentalist Muslims hate Christianity. We have seen this dynamic at work in the United States since 2001 and with renewed vigor over the past two years. It’s as if a perpetual state of Jihad/Crusade exists in the minds of extremists at both ends, leaving the rest of us to grow dizzy from the salvos fired past our heads.

But what is happening with Christmas in the United States is merely a byproduct of religious diversity. “Merry Christmas” as a slogan does not appeal to everybody – only to Christians. Retailers want to reach to the broadest market possible; government can’t promote one religion over another. It’s absurd to expect non-Christians to wish people a “Merry Christmas” and as I have often pointed out, it’s not even really a Christian holiday, but a Pagan. It’s not Jesus’ birthday at all – it’s Mithras’ birthday or that of any of a half-dozen other Pagan gods. Nobody owns the period around the Winter Solstice; nobody can.

But though there is no war on Christmas in the United States, the Daily Mail reports that an Islamic group in the United Kingdom has declared war.

Behind the campaign against Christmas is a militant Islamic fundamentalist group known as Islam4UK, which was earlier this year banned (on 14 January 2010) by Home Secretary Alan Johnson. The group claimed, on its website, that it had “been established by sincere Muslims as a platform to propagate the supreme Islamic ideology within the United Kingdom as a divine alternative to man-made law” to “convince the British public about the superiority of Islam…thereby changing public opinion in favour of Islam in order to transfer the authority and power…to the Muslims in order to implement the Sharee’ah (here in Britain)”

Wow, sounds like any of a dozen fundamentalist Christian groups in this country, doesn’t it? How proud Abraham must be of his squabbling children!

Though it has become a crime to be a member of the group, the group’s members are still active and their new plan was to put up posters attacking Christmas saying that the holiday is to be blamed, the Daily Mail says, “for rape, teenage pregnancies, abortion, promiscuity, crime and paedophilia.”

Sounds like an Islamicized Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson or any number of fundamentalist hucksters. Their goals seem as misguided and unrealistic as Christian fundamentalist goals in this country but similarly motivated. “They hope the campaign” reveals the Daily Mail, “will help ‘destroy Christmas’ in this country and lead to Britons converting to Islam instead.”

But our main attack is on the fruits of Christmas, things like alcohol abuse and promiscuity that increase during Christmas and all the other evils these lead to such as abortion, domestic violence and crime.

‘We hope that out campaign will make people realise that Islam is the only way to avoid this and convert.”

Only a religious fanatic’s brain can work this way. What are sane people to make of this? Really, it’s fodder not only for Christian fundamentalists but for atheists stressing the evils of religion.

But Christianity is no more the cause of the social ills listed than it is the cure.

The campaign’s mastermind is a 27-year-old Wahhabist named Abu Rumaysah, once a campaigner for Sharia Law in the UK. Mr. Rumaysah has the same disdain for Christianity as a fundamentalist Christian in this country does for say, paganism: “Christmas is a lie and as Muslims it is our duty to attack it.”

All something like this does is make people angry. Its one thing to advertise your own religion, your own god, but it’s another to antagonize others by attacking theirs, particularly in a season they hold to be holy. What if a fundamentalist group were to attack an Islamic holy day, like Ramadan, for the same reason?

You can imagine the outrage of the entire Islamic world.

Holy days are to be celebrated, not attacked. Nobody has the right to expect anyone else to celebrate a holiday that is, to them, a non-holiday, but by the same token it is not too much to ask people to tolerate the religious traditions (or non-religious traditions – secular holidays are just as valid) of others. That tolerance – born of diversity – is the essence of the modern liberal democracy and it is for that reason that fundamentalist religions are incompatible with our western form of government – any kind of fundamentalist religion.

Muslims should no more use Christmas to attack Christianity than Christians should use Christmas to attack secularism, atheism, or other religions. I say this as someone who is a pagan to Christians, an infidel to Muslims: the baby Jesus is not a hammer that should be used to smash things.

Don’t like Christmas? Don’t celebrate it. It’s really not all that hard.

Fundamentalist Christians in this country are used to denouncing secularism with the same vehemence as that expressed by Islam4UK. Where Christians blame the absence of religion (by which they mean, the absence of Christianity) the Islamic campaign blames Christianity itself. The shoe, it seems, is on the other foot.

Both attitudes are the result of extremes. It’s no more attractive to have Christmas shoved down our throats than it is to see it condemned as “evil” simply because it isn’t Islamic.

It’s sad to see campaigns like this and similar campaigns in the U.S. by Christian groups. Neither has any moral high ground and their claim to an absolute truth is obvious only to them. The rest of us could laugh at their hubris or perhaps weep for it, or even fear it, and maybe all three reactions are appropriate.

The real evil here isn’t Christmas, it isn’t even Christianity or Islam – it’s religious fundamentalism of all types, and that, perhaps, is what we should be erecting posters against at this – or any other – time of year. This campaign has shown, as others in the U.S. have shown, that holy war can be waged with words and images as well as with bombs, but the real message here is that it shouldn’t be waged at all.

8 Replies to “Islam4UK and a Holy War of Words”

  1. Boy you nailed this one. I have friends in England that see the uprising of Islam fundies and the demands for Sharia law in the British parliment and find it extremely worrisome.

    It is strange that between the UK and the US there is one parallel and both remind me of the Borg. In the UK there is a widespread muslim movement to do away with the christians, and here its the christians that want to do away with the muslims. You must be assimilated. Pls note that I am referring to the fundamentalists on both sides and not your “real” xtians or muslims. One is born from the poverty of the muslims in the Uk and one is from 9/11 and the fact that muslims here make more money than the average Joe.

    An enlightened society celebrates their holidays in peace and does not interfere in others displays of joy and celebration. Both need to be allowed to flourish as they wish.

    I personally see no difference between fundy muslims or christians. I see elements of the Taliban in our own society in the tea party and the Newts. I no more want them in power than I do the muslims.

    We have some trying to promote the war to end all wars like Palin and Newt. Pray to the god(or lack therefor of) of your choice they are not successful. I have higher hopes for future humans.

  2. Thanks, Shiva. I thought it was eerily familiar too. Like you, I have higher hopes for future humans, and I like to think we’ll finally collectively arrive at the 21st century and some new and improved attitudes. I like to think the forces of religious reactionism will at last fall from the evolutionary tree.

  3. That’s where they miss the boat on the U.S. Constitution – the high-water mark of the Enlightenment

  4. Excellent article, Hraf. I agree with Shiva completely in his assessment of your piece. The only reason fundies picked a holy day to attack the Chrisitans is because they knew it would get attention, just like the fundy Christians picked the “ground zero mosque” to attack (that and elections). In this country, we are free to choose our religion or non-religion. We must never allow any religion to dictate or inform our laws. The extremist Christians don’t seem to understand this, but you can see why. In their mind the more they see their “enemy” succeed at this the harder they work to fight back by taking over America for their “armies of god”. This is why “politicians” (or con artists or celebrities or puppets) like Palin and Newt are so dangerous.

  5. Thanks, Sarah. It would be amusing to watch them do this if they weren’t all so willing to either start wars, use IEDs and so forth. I know that our own Christian fundies use episodes like this to fuel their doctrine of fear, forgetting (conveniently) that what separates us from the UK is the Constitution they’re so busily trying to destroy themselves. Like I said, I’d laugh if it wasn’t such a fearful prospect.

  6. I don’t actually see tolerance built into most religions. It is difficult to be secular in politics and also Christian (or Islamic) in faith. We are patriots of two countries, one the land of God (or Allah), and the other, our homeland. To the degree that the ideals of each diverge, we have conflict. It is a Design Flaw.

    Speaking of Mithra, one of my favorites, I analyzed the problems his Christmas has been causing me here:

    Sarah, nice to see you get around :).

  7. What an astute article Hrafnkell. The truth is that religions feel their supremacy over believers and other faiths must stop at some point and it must begin within the religious community. Although there are some individuals willing to speak out against hate for other faiths, I find the silence of church leaders to be at the heart of the problem. All of the “god” religions are culpable, and since they all refer to their adherents as followers, some well timed condemnation on all sides would mitigate much of the destructiveness that will certainly lead to violence.

    I’m afraid we’ll be waiting for church/mosque leaders to condemn violence and hateful rhetoric for eternity. It’s true there will always be some die-hard factions that will never stop the hate, but it is easier to contain a few nut-jobs than billions of holy-warriors or onward christian soldiers.

    Christopher Hitchens had it right in his book; Religion Ruins Everything. That is all of them except mine…oh wait, I have none; just a practice.

    Great job as usual.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.