3rd September, 2019
HIJRAH HOLIDAY: MURIC PETITIONS NASS
Muslims all over the world yesterday celebrated Hijrah Day as the new Islamic year kicked off on Monday 2nd September, 2019 corresponding to 1st Muharram, 1441.
However, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) had a grouse with the Federal Government of Nigeria (FG) over the non-declaration of the day as a public holiday. MURIC, an Islamic human rights organization, therefore decided to take its case to the 9th National Assembly (NASS).
The group accused FG of being unfair to Nigerian Muslims in the manner it shares out its public holidays. According to MURIC, 1st Muharram is the Islamic version of 1st January. The former therefore deserves recognition like the latter if indeed Nigeria is not a Christian state.
MURIC argued, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander. It is unfair of FG to recognize 1st January for Christians while closing its eyes to 1st Muharram. It is one of the ways by which government has marginalized Nigerian Muslims. This must stop. A government which seeks peaceful coexistence should practice parity, justice and fairness.
“We complained last year by issuing a statement on 6th September, 2018 entitled ‘Declare Hijray Day Next Week’. That was one week to 1st Muharram 1440. Yet nothing happened. In actual fact, our statement of 6th September, 2018 was a followup to our press release of 3rd January, 2018 on the same matter.
“We have been making this particular demand on a yearly basis for more than fifteen (15) years but FG continues to ignore our demand. 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.
“What kind of language does government want aggrieved Muslims to adopt before getting attention? What is FG goading us into? Several options are on the table: rallies, demonstrations, sit-ins, boycotts, legal action, etc. The only option we will never pick is violence because the motto of MURIC is ‘Dialogue, No Violence’.
“But even the other options have their disadvantages. For instance, rallies and demonstrations can be hijacked by hoodlums to cause mayhem thereby tarnishing the image of the organisers. They also have the tendency of hurting innocent people. This is why we always hesitate to organize rallies and demonstrations. They should be the last options.
“In view of the nonchalant attitude of successive governments at the center for more than two decades, nay, since indepence, we are constrained to appeal to the National Assembly (NASS) to take up this issue as a matter of urgent public interest. Nigerian lawmakers should not wait until reckless and violent groups hijack this agitation.
MURIC gave the rationale for the demand for the declaration of 1st Muharram as a public holiday.
“The Islamic hijrah calendar is divine (Qur’an 9:36; 2:189; 10:5 and 17:12). 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 1st January 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 and stability.
The group also gave a breakdown of Nigeria’s holidays.
“The total number of holidays enjoyed in Nigeria 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 them belong to Christians (Christmas Day, Boxing Day, 1st January, Good Friday and Easter Monday). “Muslims have three only out of eight, 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? “Permit us to repeat what we said around this time last year on the same issue. ‘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. “Therefore, the 9th NASS will be aiding deradicalisation if it steps into this matter and passes a bill to declare every 1st Muharram a national holiday. Our message to distinguished senators and honourable members of the NASS is this: whether you are a Christian or a Muslim, posterity will remember you for your stand on this matter. Is it fair for one group to enjoy five holidays while another has only three? Is that what you call justice and equity?
“We remind Nigerian lawmakers that the declaration of every first day of the Islamic year as a holiday can be one of the steps that Nigeria should take towards deradicalisation. It will send a strong message to Boko Haram that FG is addressing some of the grudges mentioned by Muslims. It may eventually lead to the surrender of large number of insurgents. It can also be used by liberal Muslims like us to soften the hearts of elements of the extreme left. This is how nations seeking genuine integration win wars and not ordinary battles.
“MURIC hails state governors who have recognized 1st Muharram and declared them as public holidays. In particular, we pay tribute to the former governors Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Osun, now Minister of Internal Affairs) and Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) for their pivotal roles in this regard. Posterity will certainly engrave their names in letters of gold.
On a last note, we appeal to the NASS to take a dispassionate look at the demand of Muslims for the recognition of the first day of the Islamic calendar just as the first day of the Christian calendar is given recognition. This is a just and equitable demand. We assert clearly, emphatically and categorically that Nigerian Muslims remain oppressed until Hijrah Day is declared a national public holiday.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)