The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria (FG) to declare Tuesday 11th September, 2018 as a public holiday in recognition of the first day of the Islamic calendar for the year 1440 AH (i.e. 1st Muharram, 1440 After Hijrah).
In a reminder statement signed by the director of the human rights organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola on Thursday, 6th September, 2018, MURIC contended that FG has been giving Nigerian Christians their own 1st January while ignoring the Muslims’ 1st Muharram. This, according to the group, is not fair.
“We still stand by our demand for the declaration of 1st Muharram as Hijrah Day. We remind FG of our press statement issued on January 3rd 2018 in which we called attention to FG’s declaration of 1st January every year as holiday for Nigerian Christians. We demanded recognition for 1st Muharram of every year for Muslims. It must be emphasized that Islamic organizations (not MURIC alone) have been making this demand through petitions and appeals dating back to the 60s but successive administrations have turned the deaf ear to their pleas.
“Today’s reminder serves as a notice for the approach of 1st Muharram, 1440 AH which corresponds to Tuesday, 11thSeptember (next week). Today is 26th Dhul Hijjah. Next Monday is 30th Dhul Hijjah (i.e. last day of 1439 AH) while the following day, Tuesday is 1st Muharram, 1440 AH i.e. the first day of the Islamic calendar.
“However, FG still needs to consult the leadership of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) for the confirmation of the date. MURIC has no mandate to identify any particular day. That power rests with the NSCIA. Our concern stops at spreading the Muslim liberation theology and sustaining the emancipation struggle until freedom is actualized.
“We demand parity. If it is true that Nigeria is not for any particular religion; if it is also true that FG has been declaring 1stJanuary of every year which is the 1st day of the Christian year as holiday for decades; then FG as the father of all must recognize 1st Muharram as the first day of the Islamic year. A good and responsible father must treat his children equally. As it stands today, the holidays are tilted in favour of Christians. Muslims are marginalized. MURIC rejects this lopsided arrangement. It cannot forge unity. Neither can it guarrantee peace. It is only equal rights and justice that can ensure lasting peace.
“1st January is a Westo-Christian day and its recognition by FG is one of the reasons we allege that Nigeria is heavily Christianised. We want 1st Muharram of every year to be declared for Muslims too. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. FG must not be partial. Muslims have been making this demand for years but FG keeps ignoring them.
“What does this portend? Is FG telling us that Muslims do not matter in the scheme of things? Regime after regime turns deaf ears to our cries. Is it only violence and demonstrations that FG understands? We remind FG that conscious and deliberate peace-making is cheaper than running up and down in search of weapons to defeat insurgents.
“1st January is from the Gregorian calendar and the latter is a product of gymnastic make-belief and historic hocus-pocus that the British Christian colonialists imposed on Nigerian Muslims. This was after forcefully supplanting the Islamic calendar which had been in use in this country for 800 years before the advent of the British. It provides ample evidence of religious segregation and spiritual apartheid.
“For the sake of microscopic clarity, MURIC is not asking for the cancelation of 1st January whether it is in honour of Janus the Roman god of gates or for Ogun the Yoruba god of iron. Neither are we asking because the Islamic hijrah calendar is divine (Qur’an 9:36; 2:189; 10:5 and 17:12). We have no intention of taking what belongs to the Christians from them. Let the Christians continue to enjoy what they have been enjoying but give the Muslims their own too. That is fairness. All we are saying: Give Us Hijrah Day!
“A mental calculation of the total number of holidays enjoyed in Nigeria shows that they are eight (8): Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Id al-Kabir, Id al-Fitr and Maulud an-Nabiyy. Five (5) of the eight holidays belong to Christians (Christmas Day, Boxing Day, 1st January, Good Friday and Easter Monday). “Only three (3) holidays belong to Muslims, viz, Id al-Kabir, Id al-Fitr and Maulud an-Nabiyy. Five to three is a wide margin in a multi religious social contract. FG must work towards closing that gap in the interest of peace and harmony. Therefore, FG should give the Muslims 1st Muharram.This will bring the number of holidays to be enjoyed by Muslims to four while Christians still continue to enjoy five. Is this too much to ask?
“There is no gainsaying that the perpetual denial, deprivation, marginalization and stigmatization being suffered by Muslims have led to uprisings at one time or another. It may not be out of place to add that the ongoing insurgency in the North East is not unconnected with the pains being suffered by Muslims around the country.
“Permit us, therefore, to postulate that the declaration of every first day of the Islamic year as a holiday is one of the steps that FG should take towards deradicalisation. It will send a strong message to Sambisa that FG is addressing some of the grudges mentioned by Muslims. It may eventually lead to the surrender of large numbers of insurgents. It can be used by liberal Muslims to soften the hearts of elements of the extreme left. This is how nations seeking genuine integration win wars and not ordinary battles.
In summary, we remind FG that Nigerian Christians enjoy five different holidays while their Muslim counterparts have three only. In the spirit of fairness, equity and justice, FG needs to allow the dividends of democracy to reach Nigerian Muslims too by giving them 1st Muharram as holiday. This will only bring Muslim holidays to four while Christians continue to enjoy five. Next Tuesday, 11th September, 2018 (and every first day of the Islamic year) should therefore be declared a public holiday.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)