Liberia: Religious Holiday Debate at Senate Delayed


MONROVIA – Muslims who anticipated that beginning Tuesday, May 25, 2021 the legislature would begin to discuss what they have long craved for will have to wait a little longer as the Senate failed to discuss the proposed legislation from Senator Edwin Snowe (IND-Bomi County).

The intent of the Edwin Snowe much-talked about proposed legislation is to allot public holiday for Liberian Muslims and Christians was unable to receive its first reading as per legislative practice as a result of  the crafter’s absence from session.

Interestingly, submission of the legislation formed part of the Senate agenda for its Tuesday session but could not be read because Senator Snowe was absent. The Senate Pro-Tempore didn’t give reason for Senator Snowe’s absence.

When contacted via text message, Senator Snowe responded: “I traveled. My flight was scheduled to depart at 3:50 and I left the chamber at 1:00 and up to that time session had not started.”

The proposed acts include; An Act Making Easter Monday a Public Holiday”, “An Act Making Eid al-Adha (Abraham’s Day) a public Holiday”, “An Act Making Eid al-Fitr (End of the Holy Month of Ramadan, the Festival of Breaking Fast) a Public Holiday.

In recent years, Muslims have advocated for the legislation of a day to be set aside as holiday for Muslims in Liberia for the celebration of their holy month which includes; Eid al-Adha (Abraham’s Day) and Eid al-Fitr (End of the Holy Month of Ramadan, the Festival of Breaking Fast).

In 2020, a group under the banner, the Movement for Islamic Holidays in Liberia called on the Legislature to pass into law two major Islamic festivals – Eid al-Fitr, known as Ramadan Day and Eid al-Adha also called Abraham day as national holidays.

The group said the call to legislate the two days as national holidays is consistent with Article 14 of the Liberian Constitution which states that all persons are entitled to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

Speaking on behalf of the group at a press conference in Monrovia, Ayoubah G. Dauda Swaray said the continuous refusal to grant the Islamic community national holidays in the country is a clear violation of their fundamental rights.

“While there are several nationally recognized and celebrated holidays in Liberia, it will interest you to know that there is not a single holiday dedicated to Muslims even though the Constitution declares the nation as a secular state,” Swaray said.

“With comparative analysis to other West African nations, we Muslims see it as a clear violation of our fundamental right to be denied Islamic Holidays; whereas consistent with the separation of religion, the Republic is a non-State religion thereby making it secular, but Christmas, as well as other religious holidays, are purposely dedicated to our Christian counterparts.”

Swaray added that Muslim women have faced humiliation and other obstacles during voters’ registration, as poll workers have refused to photograph people wearing hijab.

“People with Muslim names have been intimidated, harassed, maligned and abused during elections periods and at various check points in Liberia,” he said.

“Muslims in general face severe scrutiny in the process of acquiring national documents and ownership over land which is not the case with our non-Muslims counterparts.”