The UK government sacrificed Eid and Diwali for Christmas

It’s as simple as that

At 10pm last night people across England sank the dregs of their final pints, said goodbye to their mates, hopped on trains and buses and bravely headed home to plunge themselves into national quarantine – all in the hope of saving Christmas. Everyone is so gallantly staying home, boarding up their windows, not seeing their grans and only communicating via smoke signals in the name of saving Christmas. The Prime Minister reminded everyone in the UK that this all has to be done, and done right now, to SAVE Christmas. The only holiday worth caring about. The most important date in the calendar. The birth of Jesus Christ, our lord.

One thing the Prime Minister forgot about was the existence of hundreds of thousands of people who don’t celebrate Christmas, aren’t Christian, and actually have some pretty important religious holidays of their own. He successfully bulldozed over two Eids and now Diwali, shouting all the while about the importance of protecting a national – Christian – holiday. Is it a coincidence that ethnic minorities celebrate these holidays, not white Christian men who shoot pheasants and bring journalists cups of tea in Union Jack mugs?

“No,” Asif, a Muslim first-year student told The Tab, “it’s not. In the UK, despite what we say that ‘no matter what your race and religion is everyone is equal’, the approach to Christmas celebrations has made it clear there is a preferred demographic.

“When it came to Eid and Diwali the gov said it’s a time of national emergency and everyone needs to do their part and make sacrifices, so where’s that energy for Christmas?”

Farah, who is also Muslim and studies at UCL, is feeling similar anger towards the UK government. “I understand that England is a predominantly Christian country,” she says. “However this doesn’t stop the fact that for many people (like myself) it feels unfair and like the government doesn’t care about them.”

Farah spent Eid in lockdown and was unable to celebrate it as a result – normally her family would invite friends or extended family members over to celebrate, but they couldn’t do that this year. For the second Eid she was able to celebrate it a little more, as lockdown restrictions were eased – but that wasn’t the case for everyone. The UK government slammed down increased restrictions midway through Eid, on the 31st July – one day into celebrations. This was the equivalent of locking down one whole portion of the country on Christmas Eve.

“It was completely unfair for Muslims up north who had to cancel all their plans,” Farah says. “Boris put those restrictions in place so easily, meanwhile it has taken him so much time to impose a national lockdown currently when the cases now are far greater than they ever have been.”

Farah feels grateful at least for the fact she doesn’t live alone: “I have members of my family that do, and so were alone for Eid, but we didn’t complain. We sacrificed Eid celebrations for the health of the country – just like that.

“And I’m not just talking about Eid. Diwali is coming up soon, and I’m sure that the lockdown has potentially affected Hindu and Sikh peoples’ plans.”

Farah would be right. Sanj, a final year student at Southampton, was due to celebrate the festival of lights with her parents but their plans were scuppered by the lockdown. “As much as I appreciate that a lot of people want to celebrate Christmas and see their families I think it is ridiculous that the government has repeatedly sidelined ethnic minorities. Whilst I fully agree people should be able to have a somewhat ordinary Christmas I don’t think it should be to the detriment of other religious festivals.

“My family and I aren’t the most religious (but I doubt many of those who are trying to save Christmas are) but Diwali is a nice time of year for us to enjoy together. My parents were going to come down on the 14th (Diwali) to see me and now it has been canceled; I’m sure however that there will be a change in rules during Christmas Day. Ethnic minorities already have faced discrimination under this government so this just feels like another insult.”

Mansi, who studies at UCL, was also supposed to be celebrating Diwali this year on a smaller scale. She understands that the festival would have to be toned down or called off this year to be safe, but that’s not what bothers here. “The thing that is truly irksome… is that we are repeatedly being told by the government that all this is in a bid to ‘save Christmas’ so that families can come together – it has no regard for the families that come together at other times in the year for other important religious festivals instead. A lot of my extended family and community regard Diwali as a huge social occasion and the highlight of the year.

“Clearly there is a hierarchy of how important the government regards religions and their festivals despite being a supposed secular country, and it is ethnic minorities that are being shoved out and seen as unimportant by a government that wants to see itself as diverse.”

The UK government has had issues with its messaging throughout the coronavirus crisis, but perhaps it should have learned to stick with ‘Stay Home, Save Lives and Protect The NHS’ instead of using a mantra that belittles people’s culture. But that’s just a suggestion.

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