WHY LIBERIAN MUSLIMS NEED LEGISLATED NATIONAL HOLIDAYS? A RIGHT AND NOT A PRIVILEGE

Authored By: Varney K. Dunor

Liberia as a nation since 1821 was founded by free black slaves from the United States of America met ISLAM which came to Liberia after the Songhay Empire in the 16th Century. It will interest you to note that there are several recognized and celebrated Holidays in Liberia, but there is not a single day dedicated to Muslims even though the constitution of the Republic declares the nation a SECULAR STATE.

With countries around Liberia specifically West African countries giving Christian who are even 1, 2, 3, 4 up to 8 % in dominated Muslim Countries the right by legislating two-three of their major/festivals as National Holidays. For the past 173 years in Liberia’s history, we have had no major violence when it comes to Muslims and Christians living here in peace and harmony.

What baffles me is that, what is so big about us Muslims asking for our right to have just two Islamic Holidays in Liberia, when we have twelve (12) National Holidays in total, with three (3) of these Holidays are squarely set aside for our Christian brothers and Sisters, that which we believe is unfair to us as Muslims. For the record, the three Holidays set aside for Christian are:
1. FAST AND PRAYER DAY
2. CHRISTMAS DAY
3. THANKSGIVING DAY
Now let me give you a bit historicity of these three Christian Holidays specifically celebrated by Christians in Liberia.
FAST AND PRAYER DAY:
Through the years before 1883 (and thereafter) Liberia’s sovereignty and independence were challenged by the imperial power of Europe. From within Liberia Social and Political crisis erupted over the unjust distribution of goods and services. Yet the nation survived. It was against this background that an act of Legislature as passed in 1883 setting aside the SECOND FRIDAY in APRIL as a National Holiday to be known as Fast and Prayer Day.

CHRISTMAS DAY :
Liberia Celebrates December 25, the birthday of Jesus Christ, as a National Holiday. The celebration was formalized by the National Legislature in 1956.

THANKSGIVING DAY :
Thanksgiving Day is observed on the First Thursday in November of every year. This day originates as far back as 1822 when the settlers defeated the surrounding Africans in the battle of Crown Hill fought on November 11, 1822. After the victory, the colonial council or the legislative body in the settlement passed a law making November 11 a day on which God should be thanked for saving the colony from destruction. On January 15, 1870, the Legislature enacted a law which made the First Thursday in November a National Holiday which is known as Thanksgiving Day.

With the historicity given above on the three Christian Holidays in Liberia, one may want to argue that even Muslim Fast and Pray, but to lay that to bed, we Muslims don’t fast on ordinary Fridays if it is not the month of Ramadan. Our ordinary day of fasting are Mondays and Thursdays and not Friday and for the Second Friday in April to be a day set aside for Liberian to fast and pray for the nation is good, but we Muslims can’t do so for it is not in line with our doctrine, and so it is squarely for Christians. The CHRISTMAS DAY, in itself, is a NO argument, every December 25th is celebrated in Liberia here as National Holiday. Let this also be clear that the issue of our brothers and sisters from the Christian faith saying that Christmas is an Internationally Celebrated Day and some even go on to say Christmas was not legislated, a beat my imagination. I ask anyone saying such to go and read “The Patriotic And Cultural Observance Law – Title 25 – Liberian Code Of Laws Revised “. Chapter 1.

Fellow readers, this request by Liberian Muslim to get Islamic Holidays did not just start under this regime of our dynamic President, His Excellency President George M. Weah, or this year. This has since been asked/requested for as far back as 1995. In all, our quest to get our rights as quoted in the 1986 Liberian Constitution Article 14 which states that ” All persons shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment thereof except as may be required by law to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. All persons who in the practice of their religions conduct themselves peaceably, not obstructing others and conforming to the standards set out herein, shall be entitled to the protection of the law. No religious denomination or sect shall have any exclusive privilege or preference over any other, but all shall be treated alike, and no religious tests shall be required for any civil or military office or for the exercise of any civil right. Consistent with the principle of separation of religious and state, the Republic shall establish no state religion “, we have not in any point in time been violence or threaten the peace of our beloved Country Liberia.

COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS ACROSS WEST AFRICAN COUNTRIES ON ISLAMIC HOLIDAYS:
Liberia being one of the sixteen countries in West Africa, it will interest you to note that ONLY Liberia and Cape Verde are not observing the two major Islamic festivals namely EID FTRI ( Ramadan Day ) and EID AL- ADHA ( Abraham Day ) as national holidays, while the rest of the 14 Countries celebrates these two festivals as National Holidays in their respective countries. For your reading, see below the rest of the Sixteen Countries and the number of Religious Holidays they celebrate as National Holidays Including the two major Islamic Holidays, EXCEPT for Liberia and Cape Verde as mentioned above.
***
*No
*COUNTRY
*HOLIDAYS

1. Ghana
New Year’s Day
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Christmas Day

2. Benin
New Year’s Day
Vodoun
Easter Monday
Ascension Day
Eid- Al Fitr (Korite)
Eid- Al Adha (Tabaski )
Feast Assumption
Mawlid
All Saints Day
Christmas Day

3. Guinea
Easter Monday
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Assumption Of Mary
Mawlid Al-Nabi
All Saints Day
Christmas Day

4. Guinea Bissau
New Year’s Day
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Christmas Day

5. Sierra Leone
Good Friday
Easter
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Mawlid Al-Nabi
Christmas Day

6. The Gambia
New Year’s Day
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Feast of Ascension
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Feast Assumption
Ashura
Mawlid
Christmas Day

7. Senegal
New Year’s Day
Grand Magal de Tomba
Easter Monday
Ascension Day
Assumption Day
White Monday
Eid- Al Fitr (Korite)
Eid- Al Adha (Tabaski )
Feast Assumption
Mawlid
Ashura (Tamkharit )
Christmas Day

8. Mali
New Year’s Day
Easter Monday
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Mawlid
Prophet Baptism
Christmas Day

9. Niger
New Year’s Day
Easter Monday
Laylatul Al-Qadr
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Islamic New Year
Ashura
Mawlid
Christmas Day

10. Mauritania
New Year’s Day
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Mawlid
Islamic New Year

11. Nigeria
New Year’s Day
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Mawlid
Christmas Day

12. Togo
New Year’s Day
Easter Monday
Assumption of Mary
White Monday
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Mawlid Al-Nabi
All Saints Day
Christmas Day

13. Liberia
New Year’s Day
Thanksgiving Day
Fast and Prayer Day
Decoration Day
Christmas Day

14. Burkina Faso
New Year’s Day
Easter Monday
Mawlid Al-Nabi
Ascension Day
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Feast Assumption
All Saints Day
Assumption of Mary
Christmas Day

15. Ivory Coast
New Year’s Day
Easter Monday
Laylatul Al-Qadr
Ascension Day
Eid- Al Fitr
Eid- Al Adha
Feast Assumption
All Saints Day
Mawlid
White Monday
Christmas Day

16. Cafe Verde
New Year’s Day
Ash Wednesday
Feast Assumption
All Saints Day
Christmas Day

With the list of Countries in West Africa that are observing Islamic Holidays as national Holidays in their respective countries, we ask, but why don’t Liberia follow suit, if only we as Liberians believe in religious tolerance?
As a young man who grow up and schooled in Liberia, I too suffered a lot in choosing between my grade school Test, University Exams or academic works, whenever any of the two Islamic festivals (HOLY-DAYS) reaches.
I am either to choose to go to pray or going to sit my test or Exam, which is not the case with our Christian brothers and Sisters. The three days listed above are national holidays where all students, be it Muslims or Christians are to stay home and observed the day; and even during EASTER WEEK, when I was at the Nation Premier Institution of learning (University of Liberia), we closed the University for a week or two just to observe ester break. This is our reasonable views are unfair to us the 12.2 per cent Muslims of the over 4.5 Million population of Liberia.

Stay doing comparative analysis of Countries we (Liberia) share borders with or in the same region ( West Africa), I want to also give you the statistics of the Sixteen Countries in terms of the percentage of CHRISTIANS and MUSLIMS in each Country yet, you will notice dominant Muslims Countries, with keen NOTE not being referred to as the ISLAMIC STATEs but rather the SECULAR STATEs, give the minority Christians in those countries their full rights to celebrate their religious festivals as National Holidays. Now, let take a look at the Countries, consider secular states, the percentages of Muslims and Christians within those West African countries.

*No.
*Country
*Religious Believe
*Census Year
*Percentage of Muslims
*Percentage of Christians

1. Ghana
Secular
2010
17.6% – Muslims
71.2% – Christians

2. Benin
Secular
2013
27.27% – Muslims
48.5% – Christians

3. Guinea
Secular
2008
85%- Muslims
8% – Christians

4. Guinea Bissau
Secular
45%- Muslims
22% – Christians

5. Sierra Leone
Secular
2010
78%- Muslims
21% – Christians

6. The Gambia
Secular
2013
96%- Muslims
3% – Christians

7. Senegal
Secular
95%- Muslims
4% – Christians

8. Mali
Secular
95%- Muslims
2% – Christians

9. Niger
Secular
2012
79%- Muslims
1% – Christians

10. Mauritania
Islam
2000
99%- Muslims
0.4% – Christians

11. Nigeria
Secular
2019
50%- Muslims
48.1% – Christians

12. Togo
Secular
14%- Muslims
43.7% – Christians

13. Liberia
Secular
2008
12.2%- Muslims
85.5% – Christians

14. Burkina Faso
Secular
2008
60.5%- Muslims
23.2% – Christians

15. Ivory Coast
Secular
2017
42.9%- Muslims
33.9% – Christians

16. Western Sahara
Secular
2010
85.3%- Muslims
1.8% – Christians

Even with the various statistics of percentages of Muslims and Christians in those respective countries, I bring to your attention key notice of countries that I considered as high ranking Muslim dominated countries were able to give their low percentages Christian citizens their rights. Let’s take for an example Niger, Mali, Gambia, Senegal and Guinea that have 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% and 8% Christians respectively, enjoy their major festivals as National Holidays. I call this a very HIGH DEGREE of TOLERANCE and LOVE. Why NOT my dearest country Liberia?

IS IT THAT THE DAY WE WANT TO BE NATIONAL HOLIDAYS, a SPECIFIC DAY? YES, AND IT CAN EVEN BE KNOWN AHEAD OF TIME BEFORE IT IS CELEBRATED.

To answer the questions above in detail, one must sit and ask him/herself how are those countries celebrating these two major Muslim Festivals as national holidays for their Muslim population when in fact it does not have a “specific day” as claimed? Firstly, Muslims have what we call a Lunner Islamic calendar that is quite different from the Western calendar. The EID FITR (Ramadan Day) and EID AL- ADHA (Abraham Day ) all come on different days each Western calendar year, so this cannot be a justifiable reason while we shouldn’t be given national holidays. For example, in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Gambia they all place the two date on their yearly National Holidays list each year. The question is how do they manage to know these days? Ans. The governments of those countries work with the Muslim leadership to make determination since the two colanders defer.

Secondly, the two days can be LEGISLATED or through PROCLAMATION each year by following the same process, as we already have a Committee called ” The Crescent Committee” set up by the National Muslim Council of Liberia, the National Imam Council and the League of Islamic Scholars of Liberia. , this committee in Liberia is responsible to search the moon through technological or use of the exact Islamic calendar to know when will be the Eid once a year. Again, for the Eid Al-Adah ( Abraham Day) it is even the easier one because it fixes. Thirdly, to the point of legislation, this is also very simpler to do if we should legislate the two days through legislation, what is needed is to write a well-placed BILL like Hon. Senator Prince Y. Johnson and Hon. Edwin M. Snow did. The Bill now will specifically talk of how the two days will be legislated through legislation.

MORE REASONS WHY LIBERIAN Muslims NEED ISLAMIC HOLIDAYS IN LIBERIA:

Yes, both Christians and Muslims have lived in Liberia for so long in harmony, but this doesn’t mean that the rights of Muslims have been respected over the years.

1. We need Islamic holidays for the 1886 constitution of Liberia makes it clear that no one religion shall be treated over the others, and doing so is an INJUSTICE and violation of the constitution of Liberia.

2. We need Islamic Holidays in Liberia so as to allow our school going kids, adults and professional people perform their religious duty without a dilemma of choosing between their school exams, or job schedule on the day of Eid Fitr or Eid Al-Adah,

3. We need Islamic Holidays in other to balance the issues of Religion Tolerance in our country.

4. As Muslims, we need Islamic Holidays in Liberia to allow us to observe our two national festivals freely with our family members and friends.

5. Liberian Muslims need Islamic Holidays because we are all equal under the law and as such we should all be treated equally.

6. We Need Islamic Holidays because it will further strengthen our peaceful coexistence and national unity.

CONCLUSION:
In conclusion, I believe as a Muslim our rights must be given us equally as Liberians just as it is given to our Christian brothers and sisters for we think this will make us feel equal to our fellow Liberians.

If our rights are given us, we will be happy and free as our Christian brothers and sisters are. Let this be known that if this right of ours are not given US (Muslims), we will not get tired, but to keep requesting for it till we get it through every peaceful or legal means possible. We will remain peaceful and humble in all our engagements in this case.
Long Live Mama Liberia and May God bless us all as citizens. Amen!

DISCLAIMER: This is my personal view; it is not the view or position of my InAmenons, NATIONAL MUSLIM YOUTH OF LIBERIA (NMYL) or my Employer.

About the Varney K. Dunor
A Patriotic Muslim Liberian, an Activist,
political Pundit and an Emerging Economist

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