A group of Liberian Muslims under the banner, Movement for Islamic Holidays has petitioned the House of Representatives, calling for legislation of two major Islamic festivals Eid-al-Fitr known as Ramadan Day and Eid al-Edha known as Abraham Day as national holidays.
In its petition presented to the House of Representatives Tuesday, 04 August, the group said there are several nationally recognized and celebrated holidays in Liberia, but it is interesting to note that not a single holiday is dedicated to Muslims even though Article 14 of the Constitution of Liberia declares the Nation a secular state.
Honorable Lawmakers, with a comparative analysis to the laws of this country, and international human right protocols, and in respect to practices in other West Africa nations, we Muslims see your refusal over the past time to grant us a legislation for the observance of our two major festivals as national holidays, as a complete disservice, and disregard to our faith, nationality and commitment to the overall development of Liberia”, the petition reads.
The petitioners said Muslim women in Liberia faced humiliation and other obstacles to voter registration, alleging that poll workers refused to take ID photographs for people wearing hijab and people with Muslim names have been intimidated, malign, harassed and abused during election period and at various check points across the country.
According to the group, Muslims in general face severe scrutiny in the process of acquiring national documents and ownership over land which is not the case with non-Muslim counterparts.
It notes that sadly, the National Legislature of Liberia usually elects a Christian Champlain and even stops the work of the Liberian people during Easter and Christmas periods, but doesn’t do same for Muslims.
“Most interestingly, but highly frustrating, our government past and current, have perpetually ignored the rights of the Liberian Muslims over the years. The over one million Muslim students and workforce in Liberia have been forced to attend classes or go to work on both Ramadan Day and Abraham Day, or the students punished either by failing in their exams, quizzes, presentations or other academic works; while those from the workforce faced suspension, or cut in salary for observing their Eid with family members”, the group further explains.
The petitioners said, Liberia, as a secular state with 12.2 percent Muslim population, Islamic holidays are considered an abomination, which should not be at all and called on all Liberians to join hands in stopping extremism against Muslims in the country.
“With this said, we have gathered here today, Tuesday, August 4, 20202 to call on each and everyone of you regardless of your faiths, sex, political associations, or backgrounds to stand with us in legislating our two festivals as national holidays before going for the Agriculture break.”
Montserrado County District#4 Representative, RustolynSuacoco Dennis, also a member of the Women’s Legislative Caucus of Liberia, received the petition on behalf of the House of Representatives.
The group spokesperson AyoubanDaudaSwaray on Monday told a news conference that in West Africa, only Liberia and Cape Vera Island are yet to legislate Islamic holidays, which he termed as division among religion.
“For our rights to be denied, we think it is not a good thing in a civilized democracy like ours, so we give you few instances. You go Niger which is 99% Muslim, Christmas is being celebrated as national holiday, Easter Monday is national holiday, Guinea and you name the rest. These countries respect their minority brothers and sisters because in union success is sure,” Swaray stressed.