Muslims in Liberia Call on The Legislature to Legislate Ramadan and Abraham Day as Public Holidays
Monrovia – The Movement for Islamic Holidays in Liberia is calling 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.”
Swaray also said that Muslims businesses are legally closed on Sundays and other holidays in observance of Christian Sabbath or worship days, something he said Muslims view as pretext to force them to do.
“The University of Liberia and other State-owned institutions are forced to close during the Christian festival periods (Easter and Christmas) but sadly, the national Legislature usually elects a Christian Champlain and even stops the work of the Liberian people during Easter and Christmas periods, but don’t do same for the Muslims,” he said.
“Other faith-based institutions of learning are being subsidized by [the] State through the taxes of everyone, leaving out Muslim institutions of learning. The over one million Muslims students and workforce have been forced to attend classes or go to work on Ramadam and Abraham Days, or they are punished either by failing their exams, quizzes or academic works while those from the workforce faced suspension, or a cut in salary for observing their Eid with family members.”
Giving the statistics of religious tolerance in West Africa, Swaray said Liberia and Cape Verde are the only two countries that have refused to observe or Grant Muslims holiday(s)
While Niger, a secular State with 99% Muslims and 1% Christians observes about three national holidays for Christians. Mali, also a secular with 95% Muslims and 2% Christians also does the same along with Senegal, 95% Muslims and 4%, and Guinea, with 85% Muslims and 8% Christians.
“The question now is, why should Liberia be different from every other country, or why should Liberian Muslims be treated in such manner? It is saddened that our dearest country Liberia, as a secular State with 12.2% Muslims, Islamic holidays are considered an abomination, which should not be at all!” he said.
Swaray said they will stage a peaceful protest on Tuesday, August 4, at the Capitol Building in Monrovia to petition the Legislature to pass into the celebration of Ramadan and Abraham Days as national holidays.
“We also call on all Muslims in Liberia to close down their offices or businesses, park their cars, close their gas stations, media and other institutions from 11 AM to 11:59 PM on this year’s Abraham Day scheduled for next Friday, July 32, 2020. This, in our view, will serve as a wake-up call to our national leaders,” Swaray added.
However, responding to a question that there is no fixed date for Ramadan and Abraham Days, so how will the days be legislated, Swaray replied: “The President can make a proclamation if, for example, the day falls on Thursday, he can make a proclamation on Tuesday for the liberation of the Ramadan or Abraham Day on Thursday.”