Yesterday I was interviewed by BBC Radio Berkshire regarding whether or not Eid should be made a public holiday in UK. 120,000 people have signed the e-petition calling on recognizing Eid and Diwali as public holidays , and this was recently discussed in the House of Commons where MP Bob Blackman championed the e-petition. The discussion is summarized in the BBC article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28399377.
Although the petition has been rejected by the government on administrative and financial grounds, I feel that the fact that this discussion is taking place is a positive step in itself that will promote better understanding of other faiths.
I believe if Eid was a made a public holiday it will help integrate different cultures, religions and ethnicities in the diverse multi-cultural Britain. It will encourage multi-cultural events, where people from different ethnicities and religions come together and network with each other. We recently organized an Iftaar event in the Newbury Mosque, where people from all faiths could come and join us in Iftaar and see how Muslims break their fast. It was beautiful; people from different faiths sat down together, putting their differences aside and adopting each other’s traditions for a day.
I acknowledge there are financial and administrative concerns but I believe we can re-adjust holidays or take other alternative measures to offer some sort of recognition to these religious festivals widely celebrated in the UK. In Singapore, almost all public holidays are aligned with certain religious festivals including Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Chinese and Buddhists. Coptic Christmas on 7th January is a Public Holiday in Egypt which is a predominantly Muslim country.
According to the 2011 census, there are about 2.7 million Muslims in the UK (4.4 % of total population) . 1,218 Muslims live in West Berkshire (0.8% of local population), 3,538 live in Swindon (1.7% of population) and most of them live in bigger cities: 12.4 % of population in London is Muslim, 15.8 % in Manchester, 21.8 % in Birmingham, 24.7 % in Bradford and 27.4 % in Blackburn.
There are more Muslims in UK then in the predominantly Muslim countries of Kuwait, Albania, Oman, Kosovo, Gambia and Maldives. Ramadan and Eid Mubarak signs are displayed in Grocery stores like Tesco and Morrisons (see the featured image) but it is sad to see the gulf that exists between different faiths and cultures within UK.
I believe declaring Diwali and Eid a public UK holiday would be a very positive step forward in bridging this gulf and enabling harmony and understanding between different faiths and religions. It’d be interesting to know what the local community thinks so please send your comments to me at [email protected].
Mohammad Awais Tahir
Living in Newbury since September 2013
Member of West Berkshire Peace and Integration Forum and Vodafone Muslim Society
Author of exploringpsyche.com