"Hands off Christmas"

LONDON (Reuters) - Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims joined Britain’s equality watchdog Monday in urging Britons to enjoy Christmas without worrying about offending non-Christians.

“It’s time to stop being daft about Christmas. It’s fine to celebrate and it’s fine for Christ to be star of the show,” said Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

“Let’s stop being silly about a Christian Christmas,” he said, referring to a tendency to play down the traditional celebrations of the birth of Christ for fear of offending minorities in multicultural Britain.

Suicide bombings by British Islamists in July 2005 which killed 52 people in London have prompted much soul-searching about religion and integration in Britain, a debate that has been echoed across Europe.

The threat of radical Islam, highlighted by the London attacks, prompted reflection about Britain’s attitude to ethnic minorities and debate about whether closer integration was more important than promoting multiculturalism.

Phillips, reflecting on media reports of schools scrapping nativity plays and local councils celebrating “Winterval” instead of Christmas, feared there might an underlying agenda – using “this great holiday to fuel community tension.”

So he joined forces with leaders of minority faiths to put out a blunt message to the politically correct – Leave Christmas alone.

“Hindus celebrate Christmas too. It’s a great holiday for everyone living in Britain,” said Anil Bhanot, general secretary of the UK Hindu Council…

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