An Islamic human rights organisation, Muslim Rights Concern, has demanded that the federal government make the first day of the Islamic calendar (1st Muharram), a public holiday as well, just like the Christian January 1.
It therefore demanded the declaration of 1st Muharram as Hijrah holiday, if indeed Nigeria has not become Christianized.
MURIC’s Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, made the demand on Sunday in a statement.
He insisted that the January 1 holiday is a Christian colonial creation and only the recognition of the first day of the Islamic new year can balance the equilibrium and ensure parity, justice and fair play.
The statement reads, “As usual, the Federal Government (FG) declared today, 1st January, 2023, a public holiday in recognition of the first day of the Christian Gregorian calendar. But because the day fell on a Sunday, FG created an alternative by declaring the following Monday (the day after tomorrow) a public holiday. It must be noted that the same thing happened in 2022 when the date fell on a Saturday.
“MURIC issued a statement on this gross imbalance on 7th January, 2022. Today’s press release is a slight modification and a follow-up on our statement of 2022. A nation that gives full recognition to the first day of the calendar of one religion but ignores the first day of the other cannot be described as one in which there is equal right and justice.
“Christians are being pampered by the Nigerian government. Christian culture has been imposed on Nigerian Muslims. Christianity is being glamourised and idolised while Islam is being disfigured and demonised.
“The imposition of 1st January holiday without an equal declaration of 1st Muharram as a holiday is an aberration, a misnomer and a gross injustice because Nigerian Muslims have been demanding for the declaration of the first day of the Islamic calendar as a holiday for more than forty-three (43) years to no avail.
“It simply means that FG has been so badly blackmailed by Christian leaders that it has no option than to support the continued Christianisation of Nigeria. The Federal Government (FG) still considers the first day of the Christian calendar as sacred while the first day of the Islamic calendar is regarded as unimportant. This is a spill over from colonial days when Muslims were forced to go to work and school even on Salah days. We say never again.
“Never again shall we go back to slavery. Never again shall we accept the religious apartheid slogan of ‘No holidays for Muslim festivals’. MURIC frowns at this lopsided arrangement. It is unfair, unjust and undemocratic. We demand immediate review of FG’s holiday policy. We demand the declaration of the first day of the Islamic calendar as a holiday before this annual 1st January holiday can be justifiable. The declaration of today as a holiday is an act of injustice.
“Going down the dark lanes of history, it is important to note that the Christian calendar was established by Pope Gregory XIII (1502 – 1585), a Christian emperor, while the Islamic calendar was kicked off on 16th July, 622 C. E. (Christian Era) to mark the historical migration (hijrah) of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from Makkah, where the Muslims faced persecution, to Madinah, where they found religious freedom.
“The decree which declared Anno Hijrae was promulgated in 639 C.E. during the reign of Umar bin Khattab, the second orthodox khalifah (634 – 644). The Islamic calendar also finds divine expression in the Glorious Qur’an 9:36; 2:189; 10:5 and 17:12. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, therefore, the Islamic hijrah calendar is not a product of human machination and manipulation.
“Being a product of a people hitherto repressed by the pagans of Makkah, the Islamic calendar is both a symbol and an instrument of freedom and liberation. Seen from this angle, all past and present efforts made by Nigerian Muslims for the actualisation of hijrah holiday is therefore part of the struggle for the emancipation of Nigerian Muslims from the clutches of Christian neo-imperialism, oppression and persecution.
“1st January holiday is a Christian colonial creation designed to dignify and rubber-cushion the pomp and pageantry of Christmas. In the interest of equal rights, fairness, justice and peace, the incoming FG should review this Christian colonial heritage. Nigeria became independent 62 years ago for crying out loud. 62 years is long enough to right wrongs perpetrated by the British slave masters.
“Unfortunately, Muslims are still being treated like slaves and third-class citizens by the government of Nigeria. It is too glaring to be denied. FG continues to impose an inferiority complex on Nigerian Muslims. We reject this imbalance. We will not suffer in silence. We will raise our voices on the streets and cities of Nigeria. We will cry out in the villages, in the creeks and in the forests. The valleys, hills and mountains will echo our voices. We will rather be free men in our graves than live like puppets and slaves.
“Democracy is a fraud without equal participation, equal rights and justice. We demand parity now and only the recognition of the first day of the Islamic new year can balance the equilibrium and ensure parity and fairplay. Holidays are part of the dividends of democracy. However, the dividends must not be dished out in a selective manner.
“What explanation does FG have for giving Christians holiday on the first day of their calendar while Muslims are denied same? Is it just because the British colonialists wanted it that way? Is that not colonial mentality? Is the FG not succumbing to neo-imperialism by continuing to do the wish of our colonial master? Should we not review the system in post-independence period?
We have been slaves once. But should we remain slaves forever? When will Nigeria be truly free? When will Africa become free? What right has FG to allow one faith to enjoy holiday on the first day of its calendar while the other creed is forced to go to work on its own first day? Freedom for Christians, slavery for Muslims, can love grow in such an environment? It is modern day slavery for Nigerian Muslims, no more, no less.
“To strike a balance, we demand the declaration of 1st Muharram as a holiday for the Muslim Hijrah calendar. In the alternative or if government thinks this demand is unreasonable, FG should stop declaring 1st January as a holiday. That is when we will know who has been benefitting from it and who has been losing and hurting.
“It is only when those who argue that 1st January holiday is not a Christian holiday and that it is for all of us accept the idea of cancelling the holiday that we will know that they are sincere. So let us start getting at the truth by dropping 1st January holiday.
“The fact that many state governments in Nigeria have been recognising 1st Muharram (Hijrah holiday) for some years now and declaring the day as a public holiday underpins its relevance, significance and the correctness of the hypothesis of its proponents. Many core Northern states declare 1st Muharram as holiday every year. So what stops FG from doing same at federal level? Is it because Nigeria is a Christian State even though it has not been officially announced?
“Apart from the recognition given to 1st Muharram every year by core Northern states, it is noteworthy that the current Minister of the Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, a Muslim, declared Hijrah holiday in Osun State when he was governor. The late Governor Isiaka Ajimobi who was equally a Muslim, also declared hijrah holiday in Oyo State.
“But his successor, Seyi Makinde who is a Christian, refused to follow suit in his first two years in office until Muslims in the state forced him to do so in his third year (2021). Makinde also declared 1st Muharram holiday in 2022 to assuage Muslims and get their support for his second term.
“Our message to the incoming administration is this: For forty-four (44) years Nigerian Muslims have demanded 1st Muharram holiday. For forty-four years they have been denied, deprived and rejected. For twenty-nine years (29) MURIC consistently asked FG to give Nigerian Muslims the 1st Muharram Hijrah holiday but it has been ignored to date.
“The new administration must prove to all that it is prepared to deescalate tension and usher in a period of equal rights and justice particularly between the two main religious groups in the country by declaring 1st Muharram holiday.
“By the way, the next hijrah holiday will fall on 19th July, 2023, ceteris paribus. That will be 1st Muharram, 1446. The next administration can still right this wrong. This earth planet will not tumble if it declares 19th July, 2023 Hijrah holiday in recognition of the first day of the Islamic calendar.
“This is the time to ignore noise makers. All the quibbling about the Islamisation of Nigeria is mere blackmail. It is an attempt to stop the Muslims from regaining their Allah-given fundamental rights which was brutally violated by the British colonialists who, essentially, were Christians of course.
“Those behind the allegation of Islamisation are aware of atrocities committed against Nigerian Muslims in the past. The Islamisation propaganda is a ruse and a smokescreen designed as the well-known ‘attack-is-the-best-form-of-defence’ strategy used by pathological cheats all over the world. The next administration should not fall for it.”