The recent Twitter-storm about food giant Tesco’s inclusion of a Muslim family in its Christmas advert poses as many questions as it does ‘rolling eyes’ emojis. The retailer appeared to have good intentions: to depict British diversity alongside a key message that ‘Everyone’s Welcome at Tesco’ at Christmas.
This led to accusations of ‘a war on Christmas’ and ‘disrespect to the Christian faith’. Of course, everyone is free to celebrate Christmas as they please, irrespective of faith or no faith, sexual orientation, class, race, age – the list goes on. But that hasn’t stopped a minority calling for a boycott of Tesco because of its inclusion of a Muslim family. It should be noted that there was also the inclusion of a Sikh man in the commercial, yet the meltdown only really focussed on the Muslim women.
One Tweet seemed to sum up what many of us were thinking about the backlash.
“It honestly baffles me that it's 2017 and idiots are planning to boycott Tesco because they showed a Muslim family on their Christmas advert. 90% of those will be the same ones who shout their mouths off about ‘if they're in our country, they live by our rules’.”
This observation was echoed in an article by Ruqaya Izzidien’s in the New Statesman. She writes: “As British Muslims, we spend our whole lives being told to integrate, to be part of British culture, to embrace British traditions … But God forbid we exist during Christmas. Because, yes, critics of this advert expect us to integrate, but not too much.”
It’s an important point, and poses the question: How much is integration of British Muslims into a perceived ‘traditional British Christian culture’ acceptable to those who lean to the right?
Integration is a two-way street. It cannot be achieved by one section of society without the other; it has to be a conversation between everyone, which heals divides and brings people together. It must create a vision of what we aspire to, who we aspire to be and what binds a diverse nation of people together. Integration is not just about immigrants, or about minorities, not about ‘us and them’ but about everyone.
At New Horizons, our vision is for a society where relations between Muslims and their fellow citizens are strong and healthy; where Islam feels at home, rooted in its British context. We are about living our faith in a British way and working for the future of all people in this country.
We applaud Tesco for its ‘Everyone Welcome’ message at Christmas. It mirrors that fundamental British Value of ‘mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith’. This basically boils down to ‘love thy neighbour’ which, as we’re on the subject, is a value shared by both Islam and Christianity.