Amanullah De Sondy
BBC Radio Scotland
Friday 29 December 2006
The Queen’s Christmas message had much to offer this year. The relationship between the younger and older generation was its central theme. But the Queen also touched upon her delight in multi-faith Britain where different faiths and cultures bring alternative perspectives and celebrations.
It was rather funny how my actions the night before echoed the Queen’s remarks. At a Christmas Eve party I chatted away to a middle aged man who turned out to be Jewish. What do you do at Christmas? Do you put up a Christmas tree? Isn’t Jerusalem just a wonderful place to visit? How do you celebrate Hannukah in Glasgow? Very quickly we realised we had a lot more in common than our love for mince pies.
Later on I took part in Midnight Mass with my retired tennis coach. It’s a longer service than the one I am used to at the Methodist Church, but one which I enjoy. My coach isn’t particularly “religious”, but being with him inside the Church I saw the spiritual glow in his face. And, in his turn, he said it meant even more to him because I was with him, his Muslim friend.
In amongst all of these festivities, there was another one brewing up far across the world. The annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia was about to start and will end with the celebration of Eid, which marks Abraham’s sacrifice of Ishmael, on New Year’s day. My sister has gone to hajj this year and I found it fascinating watching her getting ready for this spiritual journey.
One of my Christmas presents was a book by Gautam Malkani called Londonstani. It’s about a group of Sikh, Hindu and Muslim teenagers who are trying to come to terms with their true identity. The few chapters that I’ve already read made me think that Christmas, Hannukah and Eid are just some of the spiritual celebrations that identify Britain today; I believe that their spiritual worth is only enhanced and increased when they recognize and value each other.