Rod Liddle

The advent of Guru Nanak is the next stop on the multicultural calendar

The advent of Guru Nanak is the next stop on the multicultural calendar
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How will you be celebrating the birth of Guru Nanak this year? I thought we might get together for a party, bring a bottle, play a few games. The founder of the Sikh religion’s birthday is celebrated in November, although he was actually born in April: that’s just one of the mystifying things about religion, I suppose. Nanak seems a decent old cove; he once had a devotee pricked by a rose bush when he had spent too much time visiting prostitutes and explained to the miscreant that really the appropriate punishment would have been a stake through the heart, but he was a merciful mofo so he let him off with the rose bush thing.

The children of Waltham Forest (the council borough, I mean. I realize that “The Children of Waltham Forest” sounds like an uplifting adventure book for the under 12s, the sort of thing Arthur Mitchell Ransome might have written about some straight-backed and industrious youngsters living a semi-feral fascistic existence among squirrels. The reality, I suspect, is somewhat grimmer. It means children who have to live in Leytonstone and Chingford etc) have been given the day off to celebrate old Nanak’s birthday, so we could invite them along to the party. So have the children of Newham borough. They are also to be given days off for the Muslim celebration Eid and the Hindu festival Diwali, when those people who revere cows get their candles out. Lucky kids, I suppose. These compulsory holidays will apply to every child in the two boroughs. Those who follow the Jedi faith will be feeling terribly left out.

The obvious, common-sense, suggestion – that Sikh kids who wish to celebrate Nanak’s birthday at home (“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion, happy birthday to you”) should be allowed the day off and a similar accommodation offered to Muslims and Hindus for their holy days – has not of course impinged upon the council bosses. It wouldn’t, would it? Say such a thing and they will immediately reply – well, all the kids get time off for winterval! (You just KNOW they wouldn’t dare to say “Christmas”). All religions, they believe, should be marked in an equivalent manner – despite the patently obvious fact that this is still a Christian country, whether they like it or not. Almost all of our holidays – like so much else of our culture – are defined by the Christian calendar. Multiculturalism is a discredited notion which has been quietly dropped by all three main political parties – but in our council offices up and down the land, it is still desperately clung to, an article of faith which must not be gainsaid.