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.

Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen's Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.

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