Very soon Ghanaians will join Muslims in the world to celebrate the Eid Al-Fitr. I have chosen to use Ghana verse the world because Ghana is one of the countries where there is religious tolerance and coexistence.Successful Governments have progressively integrated our religious believes into the Fabric of the wholistic national development. This is not only because freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed but also it is a social construct between the governmentand itscitizens.The religious harmony,coexistence and tolerance in Ghana is so admirable I will proffer it as a model for other countries to emulate. The unnecessarytsunamis of wars, attributable to intolerant religious differences, which sometimes causeshavoc, displacesfamilies,and causesuntold turbulence and hardship to mankind will be eliminated or reduced to the minimum.
This article is to prompt an exhaustive discussion and stakeholder consultation and engagement on the need for an additional public holiday for the celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr. Without attempting to explain the benefits and values offasting, since that is not the focus of this article, it suffices to shed some light.There are two major Muslim festivals; Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Ul-Adha. The proposal in this article is a discussion for an additional public holiday on Eid Al-Fitr. It is the Muslims festival which follows immediately a day after the month of Ramadan.
Presently Ghana celebrates one day public holiday on the day of Eid. It is celebrated on the day of the Eid purposely to enable Muslims collectively to come together for a special soul enriching prayer after a long haul of spiritual upliftment. It had also become a common practice for politicians to join the prayer session immediately after the prayers to give addresses or speeches of significance to the communities. The speeches by politicians usually consolidate the gains of a month- long daily Ramadan sermons and the sermon of the Imam on the Eid day.
To persuade authorities and readers understand, appreciate, and welcome the need for the call for a two-day public holiday in Eid Al- FitrI would like to divide the Eid activities into two main parts.
The first part, I will describe as pre-Eid activities. A day or two to the Eid celebration are usually hectic for women. If you ever take a visit to the market with womento buy food staffs and ingredients for Eid orChristmas, you will understand, appreciate, and salute the ingenuity and multitasking skills of women. They scramble to share beautiful vegetables and spices broughtto the market through the hard work of our farmers and market women. If the pre-Eid day falls on a weekend, it comes as a blessing as they shop at a peaceful pace. If the day falls on a weekday, they juggle between work and lunch breaks and rushing through mostly terrific traffic after close of work to the markets. By the close of the day, they become exhausted on reaching home. Unfortunately, they will not have the luxury to rest. The preparation of the that special stew commences when they get home, and the process can take whole night.
Some people have always waited patiently,salivating for the special sumptuous stew prepared in Eid. For them that special type of stew is only available during Eid and theyhave always questioned why it cannot be made available all year round. This might be right. During Eid, our women expertly and carefully select the healthiest mix of species they can lay their hands on There is a systematic and conscious process of ensuring that the meal produced is of the outmost desired quality. This is not to suggest that women are careless when preparing non-Eid meals. Far from that, just that they put in additional efforts to give it that special taste it deserves inline with how much they value Eid.
There are reasons why much time is spent, and a lot of effort is exhausted in making the meal supper special. Women are acutely aware that such a meal is expected to feed lager numbers of families and not just the regular daily meals for the household. While the household takes part in consuming the meal, it is predominantly shared among relatives close and far, and neighbours irrespective of their religion. In some organisations it has become an annual event where colleagues at work expect their Muslims colleagues to bring and share the Eid food. They always looking forward to it.
The second part is the day of the Eid. This day used to be the preserve or predominantly activities for men. Times have changed and womendo not want to be left out, so they actively participate. It is a day of visual colourful display of the diverse rich cultures in Ghana. A day to exhibit the beautiful traditional wears and show case skilful Ghanaian dances. The streets of various Muslim communities are lit up and Ghanaians and visitors in Ghana congregate to catch a glimpse of the carnival. A visit to the streets, usually around 3pm to 6pm will make you proud as a Ghana. You will see fusion and interaction of different tribes and different religions participate in a festival that in other countries would have been perceived solely as a Muslim festival. There is a collateral relation with all the religious groups in Ghana.
The discussions above, in my opinion, has laid a solid foundation to justify the request or proposal for a two-day public holiday for Eid Al Fitr. The two-day holiday will be observed; one on the Eid day and the second a day after the Eid. The second day will be a day to rest, rejuvenate and spent quality time with family and friends.
The two main political parties have demonstrated their understanding of the importance of the socio-economic benefits ofensuring equilibrium and fair treatment of the recognised or acceptable religions in Ghana. For example, late Former president Rawlings in the early days of NDC introduced public holiday for Eid as well as created a place for tradition worships at state functions.Ghanaians have since enjoyed a holiday which hitherto was non-existent. President AkuffoAddo-Bawumia led administration introduced the Zongo Ministry and the Zongo Development Fund. The Zongo and inner cities communities have seen an unprecedented gargantuan development not only in terms of Infrastructure but also in human capacity building and social amenities provision. Ayekoo!!!
The development of a country is not dependant on solid, structured micro and macroeconomic achievement alone but also realistically developing, facilitating, and incorporating religious needs of the people. The continuous and well organised religious activities, in the mist of peaceful coexistence, as a constitutional right, go a long way to weave a beautiful morale fabric for our country.
I must however not hasten to add that freedom to belong or associate with any religion should not be taken for granted. Religious activities should be regulated and monitored, backed by legislation, or at least regulated by the various religious groups to weed out miscreants.
Any religion which facilitates, promotes, encourages, invites the sacrifice of human beings and turning our youth to human butchers and beast should be disbanded. The buck should not stop at those who commit such heinous crimes, but policy makers and the Ghanaiansociety should share the blame for any moral degeneration. There should be strategic, pragmatic, and deliberate concerted conscious efforts to make any supposedly spiritualist face the full vigour of the law for such barbaric and inhuman request. It sickens every well-meaning Ghana to the core to read about such barbarism. We need to figure out how to address the continuous morale decadence in the youth. The wider community, parents and adults must do self-introspection to identify and map out solution to curb this menace raising its ugly head at an unpalatable alarming rate. If we continue to play ostrich, posterity will not forgive us.
Let us engage in a well-shaped and an intellectual discourse on this request for a two-day public holiday for Muslims on the Eid AlFitrfestival. Let us scope the discussionappropriately taking into consideration the socio-economic interest of the Muslim group and especially our mothers. The request or appeal is not ameans of equalising holidays enjoyed by Christian but on the merits of the convincing argument I have postulated above. This will enableMuslims simultaneously balance the temporal emotional and religious demands of both paid work with social, friends and family responsibilities.
I have read and heard arguments often advanced against expanding or addingor introducing public holiday. That it is disruptive to the financial sector and other businesses, productivity and contribution to GDP comes to a halton public holidays. This argument is logical and persuasive in so far as the public holiday is unplanned. Also, the current wind of change in technology, denatures the business disruptive argument. Technology and its modern relevance especially in digitization, has blurred working hours and facilitatedubiquitous access to financial or banking servicesand businesses. In any case the social and indirect economic benefitof public holidaysare so enormous to be ignored. A perfectly balanced work, social and religious beliefs have a positive correlation with increasing GDP.
By: Dr Esther Wahaga
CSIR-Food Research Institute, Accra, Ghana