Monday, December 19, 2005

Australian Prime Minister's call to save Christmas

I am enormously pleased to hear this good sense from my Prime Minister. He speaks for me. I hope other national leaders emulate him:

Prime Minister John Howard has called for religion to be put back into Christmas. In an impassioned plea to the nation, Mr Howard said Australians should stop downplaying the importance of Christianity at Christmas time for fear of offending other faiths or non-religious people. "You don't demonstrate tolerance towards minorities by apologising for your own heritage," the Prime Minister told The Sunday Mail last weekend, speaking before the Sydney race riots. Mr Howard said he had "contempt" for arguments that the religious aspect of the festive season should be toned down through the removal or banning of Christmas trees and symbols, nativity scenes and concerts. It was not a sign of tolerance to "bland out" such things, he said.

Mr Howard won backing from Queensland Islamic leaders, who said there were more constructive things to do than "pick on someone else's religion". The Prime Minister's support for a return to the traditional Christmas comes amid wide debate over the festive season. Last week, The Sunday Mail revealed a Queensland school principal had apologised to parents for using the word "Christmas" too many times in school newsletters, in a case described as political correctness gone mad. The parents, who do not celebrate Christmas, complained they were discriminated against by frequent references to it.

Mr Howard said he had been particularly saddened by the removal of Christmas trees and nativity scenes from public places. "I hope some department stores would have the courage to bring back nativity scenes," he said. "When I was a kid, you'd go in and see the Christmas tree and Santa Claus, but there'd also be some nativity scenes in department stores. "They seem to have disappeared in recent years and you have this sort of 'oh, we don't want to offend anybody'. "Actually, you're offending a lot of people who think it's a great pity they've disappeared."

Mr Howard said he did not believe the majority of the Muslim and Jewish community resented the emphasis on Christmas. "They respect the fact that it's a Christian day," he said. "You don't win tolerant brownie points by pretending to be something that you're not. I just think it's silly and it's patronising towards minorities and it's offensive to our cultural history."

Islamic Council of Queensland president Abdul Jabal said: "We don't celebrate Christmas but we support others doing so. It's a time of peace and sharing." He agreed it was not necessary to downplay religious occasions to promote tolerance. Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane John Bathersby backed the PM's call. "We are a Christian country," he said. "If minorities are to integrate, they need something to integrate into. I don't think there is any intolerance in saying, 'This is who we are'." He said the significance of religion had been suppressed. "In part because of multiculturalism, we have drawn back too far and thought we cannot mention the fact that we are a Christian country. It's influenced our whole sense of freedom." A spokesman for Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane Philip Aspinall, said: "Dr Aspinall believes tolerance and acknowledgement of cultures is important but that ought not to detract from the celebration of Christmas." Brisbane Assemblies of God Northside Christian Church senior pastor John Lewis, who ran as a Family First Senate candidate at the last election, backed the PM "100 per cent". He said his main concern was commercialisation. "It's not just about parties and holidays and giving gifts. We don't want to lose those things but we do want to see more emphasis on the true meaning."


Cliff Richard criticises climate of political correctness

Pop star Sir Cliff Richard has criticised the climate of ''political correctness'', saying it irritated him ''like mad''. The 65-year-old singer said ''in the political climate, this whole political correctness thing bugs me like mad. I was so upset when they said they were going to call the lights in London winter lights.'' ''I'm saying 'hello, I've got friends who are Asian, I wish them Happy Diwali, they wish me Happy Christmas'. In fact they enjoy Christmas. And when I've been there and there's Diwali going on I've enjoyed that too to be honest with you,'' Richard added. ''I'm not so sure why they're so upset about the sensitivity of other religions who actually don't mind that we celebrate Christmas,'' the singer said.

In an interview on Sky, he said ''even in schools now I keep reading about how Christianity isn't necessarily taught anymore. I'm thinking: 'Wait a minute. If I went to live in another country and it had a different faith and philosophy and I joined in there ... If I was a kid and went to school I would have to learn what they learn as well'.''


San Francisco: Cops Gone Wild scandal subsides: "A funny thing happened over the weekend to the big 'Cops Gone Wild' video scandal in San Francisco -- it started getting very quiet. Apparently, Mayor Gavin Newsom and his handlers realized that while the videos were bad, they didn't quite prove -- at least in the public's mind -- Newsom's charge that they were evidence of a 'deep-seated' culture of sexism, racism and homophobia running through the department. By Sunday, the message was going out that Newsom -- having made his point and formed a 'blue-ribbon' commission to look into the department's culture -- was now ready to get as many of the 24 suspended cops back to work in the Bayview Station as possible, as soon as possible."

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