‘Muslims are stealing our culture and traditions’

Polly-ToynbeeIt’s not every day that Islamophobia Watch has cause to quote Polly Toynbee favourably, but her piece in today’s Guardian features an effective polemic against right-wing myths about the Muslim attack on “our” Christian culture:

“In a daft parliamentary debate this month on something called Christianophobia, Mark Pritchard MP accused the politically correct of banning religion from Christmas cards and advent calendars: ‘Many shoppers find it increasingly difficult to purchase greetings cards that refer to Jesus.’ … Evangelicals started a new myth this year that postage stamps with the Madonna and child are only sold under the counter: you have to ask for them, for fear of offending Muslims and Jews. Stuff and nonsense, retorted the Post Office. But you can bet this one will run and run – along with last year’s myth that 70% of offices banned Christmas decorations for multicultural reasons….

“All this would just be seasonal silliness if it were not cover for a more sinister drumbeat. The right has taken to flying the ‘Christian’ flag in ways that suggest none too subtly that foreigners – Muslims – are stealing our culture and traditions. ‘They’ are stopping ‘us’ celebrating Christmas and teaching Christian stories to our children. When Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, appeared on GMTV this week, although as usual he denied any atheist plot against Christmas, the theme in about 3,000 emails afterwards was: ‘We are not Muslims, our culture must not be silenced to avoid offending them.’

“The BNP has been quick to cash in. In the Christianophobia debate in parliament, the reported case of a BNP Christmas card was raised, ‘which portrays the holy family on the cover and inside are the words “Heritage, Tradition and Culture”.’ Pritchard warned television firms: ‘The fear of violence from a particular faith group should not be grounds for hand-selecting or targeting other faith groups who may choose to protest peacefully.’ Fear of Muslim violence is killing off peaceful Christianity, he implies.”