Muslim women enjoy Christmas in Malaysia

Peter Dutton is sick and tired of “political correctness gone mad”, according to his interview with 2GB radio’s Ray Hadley. His latest target (after recently insulting Lebanese Muslim refugees and their Australian-born children and grandchildren) are teachers who prefer to engage in secular celebrations of the festive season, rather than sing Christian Christmas carols. He was angered by the use of the all-inclusive term “happy holidays” rather than Merry Christmas. According to Dutton, we all must sing Christmas carols and celebrate this Christian holiday because we are a “Christian society”. A quick look at the 2011 Australian census data, however, shows that 38.9% of Australians don’t consider themselves Christians and the fastest-growing belief system in Australia is non-religion.

I wonder how Peter Dutton would feel if a school tried to force Christians to sing Muslim festive songs? I know, I know. This is a “Christian society” apparently, so only Christians get to force their religion on other people. The thing is, last time I checked, we were supposed to be a secular nation with a division between church and state, so our public schools should be taught in a secular fashion. This means children should not be forced to sing songs about any particular religion, regardless of whether the religion is or isn’t one with a plurality of adherents.

Just to be clear, my mother is Catholic, I went to church every Sunday as a child but I’m an atheist. I enjoy the festive period and like to sing Christmas carols, but no-one has the right to force Christianity upon me. While I understand and respect the significance of Christmas to Christians, the origins of winter solstice celebrations predate Christianity and Christmas, and the modern day secular commercialisation of Christmas through present-giving, Santa Claus and the North Pole imply that Christians don’t own the celebration. Christmas has become an international phenomenon, enjoyed by people all over the world regardless of whether or not they are Christian. So when people say ‘happy holidays’ rather than ‘merry Christmas’, that’s not a middle finger to Christianity; it’s a way of acknowledging that the festive period is enjoyed by all people regardless of their religious beliefs. To me, Christmas is a time spent with family and loved ones, to eat food, be merry, and take time off work.

Demanding we celebrate a Christian Christmas seems a funny stance for Peter Dutton to take when, as a Christian, he is the overseer of the imprisonment and abuse of refugee men, women (including pregnant women) and children in offshore prisons. This is a man who claims to worship Jesus, a child refugee whose family was forced to flee their country due to persecution from King Herod. The irony is, under Dutton’s current refugee deterrence system, Jesus and his family would have been imprisoned indefinitely until they voluntarily returned to the kingdom of Judea and Herod’s persecution. How can Dutton miss the hypocrisy of his Christian belief system and his wholly un-Christian actions?

Dutton has hardly embraced the teachings of Jesus Christ – maybe he missed the parable of the Good Samaritan? At the heart of most religions is the key philosophy: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Yet Dutton has placed his flag in the hillside. It is here, at Christmas, he shall make his final stand. He won’t be cleaning up detention centre abuses and resettling refugees humanely. His crusade is against the scourge of our nation: political correctness and forcing people to sing about his beliefs. Remember, we don’t have to follow Christian teachings on compassion, but we do have to sing the hymns.

Allowing Dutton to draw the line in the sand for what is too politically correct is like letting a cat guard the milk. Remember, this is a man who has accused refugees of simultaneously stealing our jobs while being illiterate and innumerate. Just like Trump did in America, Dutton attacks ‘political correctness’ as a way of championing bigotry, and legitimising whatever racist, anti-refugee comment comes to mind. If the choice is between the right to be a bigot, or the expectation to consider how your actions and words affect others, I know which I would choose.

Mr Dutton, before you try to impose your religious beliefs upon other Australians; before you criticise those who seek to include and not to offend; why don’t you go back to the Bible and start following the doctrines of your own religion. ‘Love thy neighbour’ is a good place to start.

This article was first published in The Vocal on Wednesday 21 December.

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