A cab-driving UKIP member has erected a 22ft by 9ft blue Christmas banner on his house which has angered a neighbour who says his message is “verging on racism”.
Timothy ‘Dusty’ Miller’s annual Christmas messages have become something of a notorious tradition in his home town of Hedge End, near Southampton in southern England. This time, his seasonal statement has gone too far for some who believe it strays into racism reports The Daily Star.
The massive Christmas banner (pictured above with Mr. Miller), written in bold white and red letters and featuring a cartoon Father Christmas carrying a Koran in his sack, reads: “Dear Father Christmas, an EU exit is the only present for me if not, it had better be a Koran & lessons in Arabic”.
Some locals have spoken out against the sign. Arshad Sharif, chairman of the Muslim Council of Southampton, has tied it to the bombing of Islamic State and even Donald Trump. Deeming the banner unacceptable, he said:
“I think it feeds into an argument of blaming the victims of things which include our own foreign policy, with a lot of people opposing intervention although the Government did it anyway.
“It is worrying because when you take into account Donald Trump’s comments these days it is acceptable to blame Muslims for everything.
“If it was something light-hearted I would be the first one to have a laugh at it, but in the current environment it’s not acceptable for people to be scapegoating Muslims.”
Mr. Miller’s neighbours say the banner has “crossed the line”, labeling it “divisive” and “ill-timed”. One said: “I think it’s awful, I hate it. It’s verging on racism.”
Mr. Miller’s own take on what he was trying to say with his Christmas banner rejects any criticism. Saying he hoped the banner would start a discussion about the European Union, he added:
“I do realise that the banner is on the edge, but I have taken it to the edge to get the desired result, and that is to get this talked about.
“I’m not bashing Muslims at all, but there is a Government in Brussels that is giving away 70 million visas to a non-EU country.
“You’ve got to get over this thing of racism and see that there is this tsunami coming towards us…
“Sadly those that say the banner is racist are not reading it within an academic mental state or from an academic point of view.
“That is the difficulty with political debate.
“We have got ourselves in a predicament that as a democratic nation we have lost the ability to speak.”
Not everyone in Southampton finds the sign offensive. The local police say they have received no complaints about this year’s effort, although one of his previous attempts was brought to their attention police then confirmed no criminal offence had been committed.
Hampshire County Council says there’s “no justification” for removing it from a planning point of view.
Judge Khurshid Drabu, who is chairman of the Medina Mosque in Southampton, said Mr. Miller has a right to put up the Christmas banner so long as it does not incite hatred against a religion. Judge Drabu added that Mr. Miller had been “very clever” with the wording “in not saying he hates Muslims or anything similar.”
Last year’s version of Mr. Miller’s Christmas banner was an enormous Union Flag bearing the words: “An urgent message for Father Christmas: All we wish for is our country back.”
The flag in the illustration was upside down, a traditional distress signal, but Mr. Miller insisted that had been intentional.
— UKIPRomseySotonNorth (@UKIPRomsey) December 24, 2014