Majoritarian Blasphemy

I came over to Sepia Mutiny to write about this and discovered that something similar already is being thoroughly canvassed in comments here. Ah, well.

Recently I’ve marked the onset of each winter by complaining about the people who complain about the de-Christianization of Christmas. My last post on the matter focused particularly on the bizarre spectacle of some Christian extremists who are offended when Wal-Mart fails to greet them with Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays, and who assume they are being discriminated against because Christmas, unlike Kwanzaa and Hannukah, didn’t have a section separated from Holiday on the giant retailer’s website. I found their desire to have their religion associated with trees and Barbies very bizarre, concluding “Personally, I’d be annoyed if paintball places declared themselves to be celebrating Holi.” paintballHoli

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p> Then I stopped and thought about whether I’d feel differently in India, where I’d be in the majority rather than in a small minority. Maybe there I’d feel that something was being taken from me, that my place in the majority was being disrespected, if the day before Diwali, someone merely wished me “Happy Holidays” in an attempt to be inclusive of Eid (which this year came the day after Diwali). Can anyone who’s been in India more recently than I recall instances of Hindu holidays being traditionally tied to secular items, and Hindus’ being offended when the secular items were dissociated from the religious holiday?

Speaking of commercial acknowledgments of faith, I’m not offended, but I am a little puzzled that my planner notes Christian, Jewish, Muslim and even Buddhist holidays, but nothing of Hinduism. I think the maker, Quo Vadis, is based in Canada, but surely there aren’t so many more Buddhists or Muslims in the Great White North than there are Hindus?

UPDATE: Here’s one way to get a multicultural holiday — put bindis on Mary and Joseph.

18 thoughts on “Majoritarian Blasphemy

  1. Or, for that matter, being in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, and wishing on Eid “Happy Holidays” because it falls next to Diwali?

  2. Speaking of commercial acknowledgments of faith, IÂ’m not offended, but I am a little puzzled that my planner notes Christian, Jewish, Muslim and even Buddhist holidays, but nothing of Hinduism. I think the maker, Quo Vadis, is based in Canada, but surely there arenÂ’t so many more Buddhists or Muslims in the Great White North than there are Hindus?

    i suspect it’s a matter of cultural clout and the fun factor – for example in T.O. the chinese new year seems to be celebrated with more gusto than the orthodox christmas – Easter Sunday does not see as much popular visitation in media as Christmas when, to me at least, the former is as important a day in the religious context

    then again, it might be the blunt edge of the ‘hindu’ representation – if i am the typical hindu out here – i am not carrying the torch very well – i cant articulate what is a hindu – my knowledge of the vedas is non-existent – the only hindu prayer hymn i know is ‘Om Jai Jagdish hare’, which BTW I find immensely soothing – even without the knowledge i can not overtly wear hinduism in my daily life – at least Jewish, Muslim, Sikh people have a framework to live their daily life in – what would i use to do the same – except what i look like – and this big nose leaves no room for doubt. what would i fight for – i am very content.
    … What do you think?

  3. Most of these problems actually result from silly liberals who make assumptions for minorities before asking them.

    Last month we had the bizarre story of a local council changing Christmas Lights to Winter Lights, and it became a big story. Had they asked anyone? Of course not. Someone called me up for a comment or asked if I knew anyone would be offended by ‘Christmas Lights’ and I told them it was the most ludicrous suggestion that people would be offended. Muslims even see Jesus as a major Prophet. Anyway, the person asking for a comment couldn’t find anyone annoyed either. Heh. Stupid councils.

    Btw, I’m not having a go at liberals as I am one myself. But some are just silly.

  4. Regarding how it is in India,there are many festivals spread out over the year. There is no holiday season per se.

    Its not uncommon for various religious festivals to be close to each other(since all of them follow the solar/lunar calendar they change every year). If you throw in all the political holidays into the mix the probability increases tremendously.

    When sometimes 2 festivals or holidays coincide, its usually taken as a abomination by school kids and government employees :)

    Other than that its no big deal over there, u just wish cristians “Happy Cristmas”, Muslims “Eid Mubarak”, Hindus “Happy Dussehra/Pongal/Diwali/ ad infinitum”, Buddists “I dont Know”, Communists ” Happy Labor Day” etc etc..

    Would it cost the stores that much money to print 3 different signs saying Happy Cristmas, Happy Kwanza and Happy Hanukkah and save us all this stupid outrage every holiday season?

  5. I suspect that a desire to be benign and inoffensive is not the only impulse behind the switch to Happy Holidays. There certainly is an active, or more like activist, anti-religious movement around in the West, that has basically prevailed in Europe, and that would be just as hostile to Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism as it now is to Christianity.

    So on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, this Jewish poster offers to all a very mery Christmas.

  6. Most of these problems actually result from silly liberals who make assumptions for minorities before asking them.

    It has more to do with trying to piss off the Christian conservaties rather than minority interests.

    I don’t see the point in using doublespeak when it comes to Christmas.

  7. It has more to do with trying to piss off the Christian conservaties rather than minority interests.

    Maybe over in the US, not here in the UK. Some of the more right-wing British newspapers do regularly comment on alleged political agendas to “de-Christianise” the UK, but I’m not sure how accurate that is considering that your average English person isn’t very religious anyway, plus there is no US-style, active evangelical / Christian “hard-right” movement here.

    Sunny is correct in stating that it has much more to do with oversensitivity to perceived minority sentiments, although for some reason that mainly involves the Muslim community rather than the rest of us. From a political perspective, it often feels as though Sikhs and Hindus are practically invisible here; I’m not surprised so many people in the UK are under the mistaken impression that all — or at least the vast majority — of British South Asians are Muslim. Which, of course, is not actually the case in reality.

  8. Some of the more right-wing British newspapers do regularly comment on alleged political agendas to “de-Christianise” the UK, but I’m not sure how accurate that is considering that your average English person isn’t very religious anyway,

    Good point.

    These right wing newspapers who complain ominously about ‘attempts’ to de-christianse Britain need to turn their eye to the real source of the problems – Christians themselves (or ex-Christians)

    The fact of the matter is that church attendance in the UK is the lowest in all of Western Europe and is still declining generally (although some churches, like African-Caribbean churches are increasing)

    No point in blaming Muslims, Sikhs or Hindus for their relative adherence to religion and blaming them for the maginalisation of Christianity from public life when it is the secularisation of Britain through the decline in church attendance that is doing it.

    But having said this, there are some politically correct liberals who do push this whole thing too far with their silly ideas.

  9. It offends me to see my tax dollars being spent on celebrating the birthday of baby Jesus. Of course Wal Mart and Dairy Queen can celebrate whatever they want, but if the government wants to do it, I am going to sue them.

  10. AMFD: >>It offends me to see my tax dollars being spent on celebrating the birthday of baby Jesus.

    It offends me to see my tax dollars spent on -

    1. Social Security
    2. Medicare/Prescription Drug Plan
    3. Saving companies and individuals from bankruptcy
    4. Pork-barrel spends like roads and bridges to nowhere
    5. Grants to foreign governments
    6. Literally thousands of liberal welfare programs
    7. Space endeavours with no ROI
    8. Waging wars to promote democracy

    … the list goes on.

    In fact, the government spend on X-mas is probably 0.00001% of the amount they spend on all the other useless stuff I listed above.

    You’re offended? I’m livid.

    M. Nam

  11. First,

    It offends me to see my tax dollars being spent on celebrating the birthday of baby Jesus. Of course Wal Mart and Dairy Queen can celebrate whatever they want, but if the government wants to do it, I am going to sue them.

    Please tell me this is a joke?

    Next, I’m new to this site, probably too new to start bitching, but I’m going to anyway.

    In regards to the stamp controversy mentioned at the end of this post, I find it increasingly frustrating that people in various minority communities complain constantly about being under-represented and ignored by the western cultures we live in. Because when those governments make a concerted effort to be inclusive, like in the case of this stamp which is a repro of a beautiful painting there is all this outrage. Honestly it seems to be just childish and annoying. I’m sure many here will disagree and have valid reasons, but honestly it feels as though the majority populations are being put in a no win situation a lot, and the minorities are looking quite ungrateful for any attempt they make to integrate while still celebrating the diversity of the minority populations. I think the complaining about the ANTM/bollywood post is just another example of this.

  12. It offends me to see my tax dollars being spent on celebrating the birthday of baby Jesus. Of course Wal Mart and Dairy Queen can celebrate whatever they want, but if the government wants to do it, I am going to sue them. Please tell me this is a joke?

    No, I am serious.

    In fact, the government spend on X-mas is probably 0.00001% of the amount they spend on all the other useless stuff I listed above.

    You’re offended? I’m livid.

    Moornam, I am offended because the government expenditure on religion violates my constitutional right of being free from government establishment of religion. If food stamps for 4 year old orphans offend you, thats fine, but its not violating any of your constitutional rights.

  13. If food stamps for 4 year old orphans offend you, thats fine, but its not violating any of your constitutional rights.

    Ayn Rand would argue that it violates his right to life and liberty. I would think….But I could be wrong..

  14. “Maybe there IÂ’d feel that something was being taken from me, that my place in the majority was being disrespected, if the day before Diwali, someone merely wished me “Happy Holidays” in an attempt to be inclusive of Eid (which this year came the day after Diwali).”

    In India, strangers walking down the street or in stores don’t go about wishing people. It is people you know that the wishing and its reciprocation happens. Also, in India, there are a lot of cues related to religion on the person as opposed to the USA. So if even stores were to try to wish people ‘jabardasti’ they’d have a better chance at predicting whether to wish them Happy Eid or Happy Diwali.

    “Can anyone whoÂ’s been in India more recently than I recall instances of Hindu holidays being traditionally tied to secular items, and HindusÂ’ being offended when the secular items were dissociated from the religious holiday?”

    I can instead share a recent incidence that offers a twist on your question. A few weeks ago the Tamil association of Denver (or was it colorado) organized a Diwali function. Emails were sent out, memberships offered etc. I wanted to go but couldn’t. Next day I found out from one of my friends who was involved in organizing it in some capacity, that the function consisted of the tried-tested cultural programs complete with kids doing indian dances, some Indian film song numbers and dances etc. He also mentioned that there was a christian prayer in the beginning. Now this threw me off! That seems quite out of place to me. He grudgingly conceded that but was clearly uncomfortable saying what I was thinking – that the prayer shouldn’t have been put up unless the program was called something more secular like “holiday gettogether”, or they should have actively illicited prayers from other religions etc. He said people felt they’d be unsecular if they said no.

    Am I the only one that thinks christian prayer at a Diwali function was inappropriate? I mean would they feel the same if a bunch of muslims offered to start it off with a namaaz? Or what about some Hindu aartis and bhajans at a Christmas celebration? This seems to me to be either a case of Hindus genuinely being secular even for arrangements that are clearly Hindu, or they continue to feel they have to pander to the “minorities”. Both of these views are quite incendiary I understand that, but I can’t come up with an acceptable answer to why it happened. And to top it off, it didn’t have the usual light the big brass lamp ceremony either. What’s Diwali without Diyas?

    To the point of happy xmas vs. holidays – I personally wish xmas to only those I know are christians, the rest gets holidays. I’m content with that, and I think it causes least issues for the people involved.

    And back to your point pg about no Hindu holidays, msn calender too doesn’t offer those even while it does offer a long list of calendar events. Microsoft has so many desis, and its not like their products are not sold in India; I wonder why Hinduism doesn’t show up for holiday markings on their calendar.

  15. Here’s another story to follow up with Sunny’s “Last month we had the bizarre story of a local council changing Christmas Lights to Winter Lights…”

    The city council of Denver last year I guess had prohibited christian float in their christmas parade (or it could be the new year parade instead). Anyway, there was a hue and cry, and so this year they’ve allowed christian floats, and also floats of any religious denomination. This year there’s going to be one float with nativity scene, while there haven’t been applications for floats from other religions. There is a fee of $10k to enter a float in the parade.

    I think its ok to not have a multi-religion float parade. Since (I think) its a christmas parade, its fitting to have a christian float, and at the same time a Hindu or Buddhist float would seem sort of kitchy and 60′ish…