World Bulletin / News Desk
Nigerian Muslims are urging federal authorities to declare the first day of Muharram, which marks the beginning of the new Hijri calendar by which Islamic events are dated, a national holiday in Africa’s most populous country.
"Setting this date aside as a national holiday in Nigeria is surely an idea whose time has come," Disu Kamor, the executive chairman of the Muslim Public Affairs Centre, told Anadolu Agency.
"It is necessary to heed the popular call and declare Muharram 1st a public national holiday in Nigeria in the same way that the new year of other faith communities and nations are known and tagged as public and national holidays," he asserted.
Muslims in Nigeria will mark Monday the start of the 1435 Hijri year, which commemorates Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) Hijra (migration) from Makkah where the polytheists frustrated his propagation of Islamic monotheism to Madina where people joyously embraced his divine message.
"Muharram is not just the first month on the Muslim lunar calendar signifying the date when Muslims, under brutal Makkah persecution, emigrated to Medina," Disu noted.
"It was also the month that ushered in an epoch of peace and goodwill for the community," he asserted.
"[Muslim Caliphate] Umar and other companions agreed that there was no action that was so profound, so significant in the Muslim Ummah more than the Hijra, which is why the Hijra was adopted for dating Islamic events."
Although many independent headcount suggested a majority Muslim population, Nigeria does not declare a national holiday for the start of the new hijri year.
Some individual states like Kano, Sokoto and Zamfara in Northwest Nigeria and Niger in the north-center do have a Hijra holiday.
Osun State in Southwest Nigeria declared a Hijra holiday for the first time last year, drawing rebuke from the media that accused Governor Rauf Aregbesola of trying to "Islamise" the state.
It is also not clear if the state government will declare a Hijra holiday this year or not.
Southwest Nigeria is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a Washington DC-based independent and non-partisan research organization, says up to 50 percent of Nigerians are Muslims, a claim the Christian community refutes.
Nigeria population census does neither uses religion nor ethnicity in previous headcounts.
The National Council of Muslim Youth Organization (NACOMYO) said an average Muslim respects the Hijra calendar more than he does the January 1 marking the beginning of the Gregorian calendar.
"So it is only fair if he is given a sense of belonging by having such a date declared a national holiday," NACOMYO President Kamaldeen Akintunde told the AA in a telephone interview.
"We deeply implore the Presidency to look into this matter for it is dear to the hearts of the Muslims."
Chapter 378 of the Nigeria’s Public Holidays Act (PHA) empowers the president and state governors to declare public holiday as they deem necessary.
Nigerian presidential spokesman Reuben Abati neither picked calls nor responded to text messages requesting comment on the Muslim calls for a public holiday for the new Hijri calendar.
Criterion, a group of professional Muslim women, says it strongly backs the call for the Muslims to be given a national holiday on the new Hijri year.
"It is an understatement to say that the Muslims deserve a holiday for Hijra," spokesperson Shakirat Abdulmajeed told AA in Lagos.
"We continue to wonder why a government needs to be told about what is necessary," she fumed.
"Nigeria is a Muslim-majority country and giving us a holiday for a date as important to our religion and lives as the Hijra is the right thing to do."Last Mod: 04 Kasım 2013, 11:04