1st January, 2018
GIVE MUSLIMS THEIR OWN 1ST JANUARY
As usual and since colonial days into Nigeria’s post-independence period, the Federal Government declared today, 1st January 2018, as a public holiday. The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) observes that today’s holiday fully consolidated the two-day Christmas holiday and enabled Nigerian Christians to kick off the 2018 Christo-Western Gregorian calendar. However, conscious Nigerian Muslims, particularly stakeholders in the welfare of Muslims as well as the growth and development of Islam in Nigeria, approached today’s holiday with mixed feelings. First and foremost, we express happiness for our Christian neighbours who were able to spend the day giving full practice, expression and manifestation of their faith. On the other hand, we experienced a feeling of despair, isolation and marginalization. Our feeling of marginalization arises from the reality of the Nigerian situation which has conditioned Muslims in the country for religious segregation and subjected them to spiritual apartheid. Here we are today, enjoying January 1st holiday which was declared by the Federal Government (FG) of Nigeria in recognition of the Christo-Western Gregorian calendar. But the same FG which recognizes this Christian calendar is yet to declare 1st Muharram a public holiday in recognition of the Islamic calendar despite several petitions and appeals to it dating back to the 60s. Surprisingly, some people still complain that Nigeria is Islamised! For the avoidance of doubts, only two of the world’s nine calendars have either survived or remained relevant to us in Nigeria. The first was the Egyptian calendar which came into existence ten thousand years ago. This was followed by six other ancient calendars, namely, the Babylonian, Hebrew, Mayan, Chinese, Greek and Roman calendars. Due to human errors in the Roman calendar discovered by Numa Pompilius (715 – 673 B.C.) and Julius Caesar in 46 B.C., the Council of Nicea of 365 C.E. came up with its surgical abracadabra by moving back the Roman calendar by four days. Thus March 25, 365 C.E. became March 21. But even this historical razzmatazz was not good enough for Pope Gregory XIII (1502 – 1585) when he discovered on Thursday, October 4, 1582 that the equinox fell on March 11 instead of March 21. By royal fiat, Pope Gregory quickly slashed off ten days from the year 1582 and the next day, a Friday which would have been October 5, 1582 became Friday, October 15, 1582. It is this Gregorian calendar, which was a product of gymnastic make-belief, that the Western world uses till today. It was this same calendar, a sheer hocus-pocus that the British Christian colonialists forced on Nigeria. Why is FG granting holiday for a false god of Rome and denying same for Allah the Creator of all things (Qur’an 2:29), the Judge of all Judges (95:8), Master of all masters (51:58) and the King of Kings (3:26). We do not wish to be misunderstood: we are not agitating for the cancellation of anything which FG has given its over-pampered favourite, whether 1st January is based on falsehood and idolatory tendency or not is not our business, let them continue to enjoy it. But give us our day for crying out loud! Fortunately MURIC has successfully resisted the collective amnesia which is rampant among Nigerians. We recall the torments suffered by Nigerian Muslims under colonial rule. The most relevant of these inhuman treatments was the denial of holidays for Muslims on their festival days. Although the colonialists declared holidays for Easter, Christmas and 1st January, they bluntly refused to give any Muslim festival an equal status. Muslims were therefore forced to go to work on Id al-Fitr and Id Al-Kabir days. While Maulud an-Nabiyy was an anathema to the colonial master, 1st Muharram was blue murder. Whereas Nigerian Muslims were able to secure public holidays for some of its festivals in post-colonial period by dint of struggles and determination, 1st Muharram remains a pipe dream till today. The question on the lips of Nigerian Muslims today, 1st January, 2018 as Nigerian Christians savour the sweet sensation of the holiday and relish in the euphoria of spiritual fulfillment is, “When will our own come? When will the Nigerian state treat Muslims as complete human beings? For how long shall we remain second class citizens?” Research reveals that 1st January is in honour of Janus, the Roman god of gates whom the Romans believed protected them from invasions. This is an incontrovertible fact. Why should FG force us to idolize the false god of Rome? MURIC charges FG to drop its colonial garb and to don a truly nationalistic identity. On the contrary, the Islamic hijrah calendar is divine (Qur’an 9:36; 2:189; 10:5 and 17:12). Nigerians enjoy a total of eight (8) public holidays in a year. These are 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, i.e, New Year Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday). Only three (3) holidays belong to Muslims, viz, Id al-Kabir, Id al-Fitr and Maulud an-Nabiyy. It is time for FG to add 1st Muharram to the number of Muslim holidays. This will bring the total number of holidays enjoyed by Muslims to four only while Christians still continue to enjoy five. This year’s 1st Muharram is likely to fall on Tuesday, 11th September, 2018 or thereabouts. Finally, we advise FG and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to interact with the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) for the exact date of 1st Muharram this year and declare it as a holiday. For Nigerian Muslims to feel a sense of belonging, FG must close the gap between Christians and Muslims. There must be a conscious effort to fully integrate Muslims into the Nigerian project otherwise we may be sitting on a keg of gun powder. Justice is the soul of peace and whoever denies one can never enjoy the other.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)