I heard something interesting last summer while I was over in Oxford helping lead a seminar on press freedom and blasphemy. A veteran British thinker told me something interesting. Obviously, the whole concept of multiculturalism -- often simply called "multicult" -- has continued to gain power in Great Britain. The question was, "Just how powerful is multicult going to become?"
In many ways, this boiled down to the issue of how well the Island of the Mighty would learn to deal with the growing Islamic presence in its midst.
Could multicult trump academic freedom? Just try to find courses on textual criticism of the Koran (as opposed to the Old and New Testaments).
Could multicult trump artistic freedom? That's an easy one too.
Then things got tougher on the secular British left.
Could multicult trump feminism? That, I was told, has come to pass. But what would happen when multicult took on sexual freedom? Was it possible that multicult could trump even that? Would some segments of the British and, yes, the European left even back away from confronting Islam on that precious issue? I don't know, let's ask Theo van Gogh and Hirsi Ali.
But this past week, reporter Paul Majendie of Reuters wrote a story that raised an even more interesting issue. What would happen when multicult actually clashed with Islam itself? What if the drive to wash away many of the traditions of Great Britain actually reached the point where Muslims began to be offended or began to fear some kind of backlash? Here's the lede:
LONDON -- Christian and Muslim Britons joined forces yesterday to tell city officials to stop taking the Christianity out of Christmas, warning them that this simply fuels a backlash against Muslims. They attacked local authorities who used titles such as "Winterval" for their Christmas celebrations and avoided using Christian symbols in case they offended minority groups, especially Muslims and Hindus.
The question of how best to integrate Muslims into European society, which has Christian roots but is increasingly secular, has become a burning issue, with Britain playing its part in the debate after years of promoting multiculturalism. The Christian Muslim Forum, set up by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual head of the Church of England, complained that taking the Christian message out of Christmas played into the hands of extreme nationalists who then accuse Muslims of undermining Britain's Christian culture.
"The desire to secularize religious festivals is in itself offensive to both our communities," said Ataullah Siddiqui, vice chairman of the forum.
Anglican Bishop of Bolton David Gillett said that when local authorities rename Christmas so as not to offend other religions, their stance "will tend to backfire badly on the Muslim community in particular."
Is it possible that Islam has a more favorable view of Jesus and his mother Mary than the mainstream British multicult authorities who think they are trying to discern the true wishes of Islam? This is, after all, England -- not Saudi Arabia.
Now this is a Christmas wars story worth following, certainly more complex and interesting than the Merry Christmas standoffs that are already making headlines on this side of the Atlantic. But here come the Christmas wars stories, like them or not.
So thank you to the GetReligion readers who are already sending URLs for early Christmas stories.
But folks, that's just too easy. Let's raise the bar. Look for the really good stories and the really bad ones. Let's look for news coverage, like this Reuters story from London, that breaks new ground -- for good or ill. Here we go.