The Muslim human rights advocacy group, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has called on the Federal Government (FG) to recognise the first day of the Islamic calendar by declaring it as a holiday.
The demand was made in a press release issued on Wednesday by the director and founder of the group, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
“Nigerian Muslims will be joining their fellow faithfuls around the globe to mark Hijrah Day on Monday 9th August, 2021. Hijrah Day is the first day of the Islamic year. It is called 1st Muharram because Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar which was divinely ordained in the Glorious Qur’an (9:36; 2:189; 10:5; 17:12).
“The Islamic calendar was instituted after the hijrah (migration) of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from Makkah to Madinah in 622 C.E. (i.e. Christian Era or A.D.). The Islamic date is identified with A.H., meaning After Hijrah.
“MURIC and other Islamic organisations in the country have been asking for the recognition of Hijrah Day since a long time ago but the Federal Government (FG) does not appear amenable to this demand. We have therefore decided to amplify our demand this year as the date approaches while sensitising Muslim politicians and leaders at both state and federal levels.
“We are calling on all state governors who are Muslims to identify with this noble, peaceful and divinely rewarding struggle by declaring this coming Monday (9th August, 2021) as Hijrah Day holiday. Members of state executives (commissioners, chairmen of agencies, etc) who are Muslims have a duty to bring this to the attention of state governors as a matter of urgency.
“Also, chairmen of local governments who are Muslims should encourage and support Islamic organisations and schools within their jurisdiction to organise events to mark the Day. Such events include public lectures, march past rallies, visits to hospitals, orphanages, prisons and other charity services, including volunteer works like repairing damaged parts of the road used by the public.
“The eschatological angle is that all government officials who play positive roles in this struggle will reap rewards here in this world and in the Hereafter (yaom al-Qiyaamah).
“On the other hand, Muslims in public offices who fail to promote it will have questions to answer before Allah yaom al-Qiyamah because they will have to explain why they abandoned their faith and their fellow Muslims for worldly gains.
“In fact, the matter is a different cup of tea for the country’s Muslim president and Muslim governors who have the power to approve it but fail to do so because, as leaders, their fellow Muslims will ask Allah to hold such leaders responsible yaom al-Qiyamah and to give them double punishment (33:67 – 68).
“This is why Muslims in public offices should not only be conversant with their religion but must also be bold enough to practice, manifest and seek to entrench it among fellow Muslims. No crime has been committed so long as they do not stop non-Muslims from practicing their faiths. Therefore they should ignore attempts by non-Muslims to blackmail them.
“What is unacceptable is for them to trivialize Islamic norms and values thereby compromising their faith. They should not be afraid of blackmail. It is empty threat. Muslims have the right to demand for Hijrah Day because Christians already have 1st January. Democracy is about participation, equal access, equal rights and justice.
“However, this matter is best handled at federal level. The states do not have to do anything about it once the Federal Government has declared 1st Muharram of every year as Hijrah Day with a holiday to mark it.
“This is why MURIC has been on FG’s neck for years now, pestering it to declare the day as a holiday. We have issued several press statements on it. For example, on 1st January, 2018, we said, ‘Give Muslims Their Own January 1st’; on 6th September, 2018, our statement was captioned ‘Declare Hijrah Day Next Week’. Again on 1st January, 2019, we wrote, ‘1st January: MURIC Condemns FG For Bias Against Muslims’. Also last year, on 3rd January, 2020, we asked FG to ‘Give Muslims Their Own 1st January’.
“Having failed to secure FG’s attention on this matter, MURIC turned to the National Assembly by sending a petition to Senate and by issuing a statement on 3rd September, 2019, in which we drew Senate’s attention to the lopsidedness in FG’s treatment of 1st January and 1st Muharram. The statement was captioned ‘Hijrah Day: MURIC Petitions NASS’.
“We assert that Muslims are being denied the dividends of democracy in Nigeria and the recognition given to 1st January vis a vis the rejection of 1st Muharram is a good example. Whereas Dorothy Pickle defined democracy as dialogue between the ruler and the ruled, both FG and the NASS have elected to reject dialogue between them and Nigerian Muslims. They have turned our pleas into mere monologue.
“So we are asking FG and our elected representatives, are you shutting Nigerian Muslims out of your democratic practices? We remind our leaders that there can be no true democracy until all stakeholders are allowed to taste its dividends: liberty, equal rights, equal opportunities, equal participation, etc.
“It is for this reason that Davis Lane spoke of a ‘participant citizenry’ as a major index of democracy performance and good governance. Defining the subject matter, Tunji Olagunju laid emphasis on ‘response to the interests of the people’. Otwin Marenin described democracy as a situation where ‘the institutions and politics of the society represent the consent and interests of all citizens’.
“Judging by the declarations of the aforementioned political scientists, Nigerian Muslims and the institutions of Islam cannot be said to have been given adequate opportunity in policy making in this country. With the exception of a few states in the North plus one in the South (Osun under Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola), both FG and most states have sidelined the Muslims on the issue of the declaration of holidays on the first day of the year.
“FG is most guilty as pronounced. A public institution that is expected to be the father of all, particularly father of the two major religions gave recognition in this regard to only one religion (Christians were given 1st January of every year) but has refused to recognize the second religion.
“While we admit that the evil was done by the Christian colonial master, Britain, and FG only has vicarious liability, it still makes us very unhappy. The lopsidedness should have been addressed since independence. Our hearts bleed for the injustice visited upon Nigerian Muslims since independence.
“If anyone claims that 1st January is not for Christians then we will have no choice than to ask the government to abolish the 1st January holiday and we will also forget about our agitation for the declaration of 1st Muharram as a holiday. But the first day of the Islamic year must also be recognized so long as 1st January is given recognition.
“What is good for the goose is good for the gander. We demand parity. Enough of all the hypocrisy. Parity must be conspicuously present where there is good governance. That is why Jack Lively compared democracy to a ‘situation of equality’ and Margoli called it ‘equal opportunity to participate’.
“Apart from FG, the Nigerian elites should take a lion share of the blame. Our elites never see eye to eye with Nigerian Muslims. They have assumed that everything is in order so long as the Christians are satisfied. But who says? The elites need to gauge the feelings of ordinary citizens, particularly Muslims who form the majority.
“This is why Almond and Verba associate democracy with a political system in which ordinary citizens exercise control over elites through norms accepted by elites and non-elites. But in Nigeria, the feelings and thoughts of non-elites are never considered. Unfortunately Muslims happen to be among 90 percent of Nigeria’s non-elites. But what of the rights of citizenship?
“It is part of Allah-given fundamental human right of Nigerian Muslims to enjoy freedom on Hijrah Day. Incidentally, and, according to this divine calendar, the 1st of Muharram of this year (1443 A.H.) will fall on Monday, 9th August, 2021. We therefore appeal to FG to declare that day (9th August) as a public holiday to enable Nigerian Muslims to mark Hijrah Day.
“We charge all Islamic organisations in the country to set the machinery in motion for peaceful and orderly demands for the declaration of Hijrah Day in all states that are yet to make the declaration. In this regard, we give kudos to the Kwara State chapter of the National Hijrah Committee under the leadership of Professor Yusuf Lanre Badmus for leading other Muslims in making the demand two days ago.
“FG and the state governments should not wait until Muslims start protesting. We are capable of doing that but we do not wish to compound the current security challenges facing the nation. We prefer to be responsible and patriotic activists. ‘All We are Saaaaying, Give Us This Day!… All We are Saaaaying, Give Us This Day!… All We are Saaaaying, Give Us Hijrah Day!!!’”