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Christmas 2020: is Boris Johnson on the naughty list?

Imagine for a moment that it’s the 24th of December 2020. Thousands are gathered in living rooms, their hearts warmed by the ambience of the tree and the prospect of the celebrations that lie ahead: the turkey, the presents and, most importantly, the time spent with their family. Now I want you to imagine the reaction if – at 9:17pm on Christmas Eve – Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced via twitter that Christmas was cancelled. 

This was the reality for thousands of British people in July when the north of England returned to lockdown hours before the festival of Eid al-Adha, an Islamic holiday. The Conservative government has come under intense scrutiny for Islamophobia and has refused to take accountability for their discriminatory behaviour (we are still waiting on the results of that ‘independent’ enquiry, Boris). As such, it does not seem coincidental that months of preparation and national sacrifice have gone towards protecting the sanctity of Christmas – a traditionally Christian holiday – while just hours went into the decision to cancel Eid. 

British Muslims are not the only demographic that has been forced to make disproportionate sacrifices for the national interest. In September, Jewish families had to drastically alter the way their celebrations of Rosh Hashanah in order to conform with coronavirus restrictions. More recently, England enacted a nation-wide lockdown throughout November in order “save Christmas”. This comes at the expense of Diwali, demonstrating a blatant disregard for British Hindus, Sikhs and Jains amongst the political establishment. Why should Christianity be given such preferential treatment? 

Well, it might be said that Christmas has become a staple of British culture and therefore transcends religion. To some extent, that is true. There are many non-Christians who choose to celebrate Christmas and it is undoubtably the most widely celebrated holiday in the country. However, it would be a complete and utter falsehood to claim that Christmas means more to a Christian that Eid means to the two and a half million British Muslims or Diwali means to the almost one and a half million Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. When majority rule comes at the expense of ethnic and religious minorities it is not moral. The government’s decision to prioritise Christmas over other religious holidays only perpetuates the narrative that British culture is white and Christian. 

But should we really be surprised? Christianity has always permeated the halls of parliament. The House of Lords is obliged to give peership to 26 bishops. Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism and Jainism have a combined 0. This archaic rule enables Christianity to disproportionately influence legislation which, at times, can come at the expense of other faiths and cultures. A quarter of the parliamentary Conservative Party are members of the Conservative Christian fellowship which, when compared to Statista’s estimate that 1.3% of the British public attend church weekly, seems wildly out of place. These factors compile, resulting in a disproportionate representation of religion in British politics. 

The reduction in restrictions for Christmas will undoubtably lead to a greater number of deaths. For some, this is justified. Spending the Christmas period alone could have an enormous impact on the livelihood of individuals and indeed communities. Consequently, the decision to allow people home for Christmas is understandable, albeit dangerous. The problem lies in the inconsistency of government policy. Do they not care about the livelihood of Muslims, Jews, Hindus or Sikhs? 

Prejudice exists within the very bones of the Conservative party and, more specifically, within Boris Johnson himself. So this year, if you celebrate Christmas, take a moment to think of the people who weren’t afforded the same luxury and remember such injustices next time you head to the ballot box.

Image: Wikimedia Commons