Monday, 2 June 2014

Holidays for All

Someone posted on Facebook that they had seen a newspaper report which claimed Hindus and Muslims wanted an official Bank Holiday in the UK. I didn't see the report myself so can't comment on it. In my view all Bank Holidays in the UK should be scrapped. Especially the two in May. I know many businesses rely on bank holidays to boost trade but that is the point. Christmas and Easter have become nothing more than an opportunity for retailers to cash in on trade and the other holidays are only a holiday for the people who don't have to work to provide the entertainment for those visitors who sit for hours in traffic jams to reach places that are over-crowded and over-priced because it is a bank holiday.
    In parts of the UK where there are already large numbers of Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and other groups,  people already get together to celebrate their particular religious highlights. Living in the middle of the country as I do, surrounded by every faith imaginable, the local news is always full of stories about Diwali, Eid, Chinese New Year and other things. There was a big parade of Sikhs last year, I apologise, I can't remember what the festival was called. I think, possibly, what these people want, more than a bank holiday, is the chance to have a day off work without being penalised. (This is a whole different story. With the number of people in the UK being forced to work zero hours contracts, paid holidays are quickly being lost left, right and centre).
    A number of commentators on Facebook objected to this idea, saying that England (or Britain, if you want to include Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is a Christian country and shouldn't give holidays to other faiths.
    Why not?  Let's first look at the derivation of the word holiday. Originally it meant Holy Day. Other faiths can have Holy Days as well as Christianity. No one is saying the whole country will have to take the day off, but I bet many people would; and the shops, funfairs and seaside resorts would not object to the income coming in from the non-religious holiday makers.
    We are a Christian country, cry the detractors. Yes, we claim to be. But that doesn't mean we should deny other faiths the right to celebrate their own religion in their own way because above all we are a TOLERANT country. By giving people the freedom to practise their own way we lessen the chance of setting one group against another.
    Christians don't get the same rights in other countries! Sadly this is true. But that doesn't mean we have to be like those other countries and unfairly treat people. We are BETTER than that.
    I can't profess to agreeing with some of the teachings of Islam. But I can see why some people are radicalised by it. Often they are young and disaffected by things that have happened around them. Lack of work may often be the case, lack of understanding or being inspired by speeches of radical preachers is another. Can anyone honestly say they haven't listened to someone who had inspired them to do something? But that aside most Muslims are just ordinary people wanting to get on with their lives in peace. The problems are the fanatics.
    I would say Islam is stuck in the past, where Christians were in the middle ages. They are not the only people who have kept women separate from men. The Greeks did it, the Jews did it, and even Christians did it at some point. For a long, long time women were expected to keep their heads covered. The sight of a beautiful woman with lustrous hair could incite lustful thoughts in a man. Seems more like a problem the men have to control if you ask me.  Even when I was young and went to church, women had to cover their heads to enter church. In some places I think they still do. When I was at school boys and girls had separate playgrounds and usually sat on opposite sides of the classroom. The girls were far too sensible to want to sit next to a smelly boy!
    Are we still a Christian country? Most people would put Cof E on a form if asked for a religion, but judging by the appalling knowledge of some younger quiz contestants I don't think many actually practise any sort of religion these days. And what is Christianity? There are many sects and subdivisions of this faith and surprisingly they don't all follow the same path! Some don't even celebrate Christmas, which to me, is the defining thing of a Christian. Sadly Christmas has become more about family get-togethers (I've no objection to that, but why only at Christmas), presents, eating and drinking than celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. And I'm not sure what the majority of the country think about Easter!
     And at what cost have we become a Christian country? The religion was originally forced on the population at the expense of other pagan religions of the time. For centuries people were forced to go to church and listen to mass in a language they didn't understand. Similarity there to being forced to learn the Quran (don't know if that is spelt correctly, there seem to be many different spellings) in Arabic even when you speak another language. And since that time there have been many splits with each giving a different interpretation to the words in the Bible. Even the Bible itself is contradictory. The Old Testament is as much a part of Christian teachings as the New and yet in the Old Testament you are taught An Eye For An Eye, and in the New, Turn The Other Cheek. How is anyone supposed to make sense of that?    
    England has always been a diverse nation with mixed nationalities and religions. Most merge into the population without being noticed because their skin is white. I have always said that if Germans were black I would be mulato because my paternal grandparents were German.
    I grew up in London in an area full of Orthodox Jews. I can't remember if the shops were closed on Saturdays. Probably, in the early days. But they did shut for their own special days. We never objected.
    So the argument that other faiths should not get a special day does not really ring true for me. Let them have whatever they need. Just so long as it's not compulsory for everyone to join in. I would happily see the end to all Bank Holidays!

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