I’ve always liked Baroness Warsi, the former Tory chairman who is now minister of faith and community. She’s a plain-speaking, feisty northerner; a team-player, not a maverick. As a Muslim and a woman, she ticks all the boxes for the liberal establishment but slays all their sacred cows with the practised hands of a Halal butcher. She’s done it again now, by saying that – “before the politically correct brigade got going” ⚡ – she was raised on harvest festivals, maypoles, Christmas carols and the Lord’s Prayer.
She has timed her intervention perfectly. Advent is almost upon us, opening the Christmas season. This is when Britain is at its most Olde England-ish: carols, pantos and nativity plays.
For a limited but influential section of the intelligentsia, this is an affront. They hear a slight in every child’s voice raised in Silent Night and see an offence in every Christmas tree angel. They believe Muslims and Jews, Afro-Caribbeans and Hindus feel excluded by these white Anglo-Saxon Christian rituals. They’ve persuaded so many teachers, museums and office bosses of this that my daughter is preparing a traditional American Indian song for her school’s forthcoming carol service, while the cards from work colleagues are bound to wish us “happy holidays”.
Enough! says Baroness Warsi. Minorities don’t want to be pushed into a mindset of “otherness” that resents mainstream traditions. They are here because they love what Britain has to offer – and that’s not just jobs and more freedoms. Immigrant minorities enjoy the maypole and the Nativity as much as Beatrix Potter and Blue Peter. In fact, as Baroness Warsi remembers, growing up a Muslim girl in Dewsbury, she found these rituals reassuring: Britons were so secure in their identity, the addition of an Asian Muslim to their choir or their play did not unsettle them.
The liberal ideologues who expect us to promote Eid, Passover and Diwali at the expense of Christmas, Easter and the Harvest Festival are not speaking for any minority but their own. This Christmas, let’s celebrate in traditional style. Time to make the mince pies.
- 15 Nov 2012
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- 29 Oct 2012
- 22 Oct 2012
• My Christmas shopping relies heavily on Which? The savvy consumer guide is informative, accessible, and very useful. More than once, it has stopped me from sinking money into a gimmicky blender everyone told me I had to have; or a smart-looking but unreliable washing machine. Now, however, Which? has stepped outside its brief – and in my eyes lost its footing. It is urging the Government to rethink its planned 3p per litre fuel-duty rise in January. I’m not doubting its sincerity. But it is not the job of a consumer organisation to try to tell the Government how to balance its books and cut carbon emissions. The Consumers’ Association should stick to telling me which toaster to buy – or change its magazine’s name from Which? to What?
• For my birthday, we blew thousands of airmiles on a magical weekend in Venice. “This time, let’s push out the boat,” my husband said; his words proved prophetic. We woke in the night to the sound of an alarm siren (poignantly tuneful, this being Venice) and went downstairs to find our hotel lobby knee-high in acqua alta that had flooded the city overnight. To help us catch our flight home, the unflappable concierges at the splendiferous Danieli Hotel wrapped bin liners around our legs, fastened them with tape, and bade us carry our cases over our heads.
We waded unsteadily to the embankment of the Grand Canal to catch the vaporetto, arriving at the boat drenched by rain and dishevelled by the gale. The locals, instead, looked dry and elegant in their thigh-high designer waders and tightly belted impermeable coats. La bella figura trumps all peril.