LILONGWE - As Muslims worldwide enjoyed `Eid festivities on Tuesday, October 15, Muslims in the Southern African republic of Malawi had to go to work after failing to pass a legislation announcing the `Eid day as an official holiday.
We have done extensive lobbying on this matter. We have lobbied government and other institutions on the need to have a public holiday during `Eid Al-Adha celebrations, just like the way we have a holiday during `Eid Al-Fitr, Sheikh Idrissa Mohammed, National Chairperson of Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) told OnIslam.net.
But what we have realized is that we are disadvantaged in terms of representation in the national Assembly.
We have a handful of Muslim legislators in the August House who would support this cause in the event that it's been brought for debate.
`Eid Al-Adha, or "Feast of Sacrifice, is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations, together with `Eid Al-Fitr.
After special prayers to mark the day, Muslims offer unhiyah, a ritual that reminds of the great act of sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma`eel were willing to make for the sake of God
Malawi recognized `Eid Al-Fitr at the end of the Holy month of Ramadan as a public holiday in 1999, during the term of the country's first Muslim president Bakili Muluzi. Yet, `Eid Al-Adha was not treated in the same manner.
With less than 20 Muslim parliamentarians in the country's 193-seat National Assembly, enactment of a legislation serving the minority was a far-fetched dream.
Malawi parliament is dominated by Christian legislators who most of them don't have interests about Islam and Muslims at heart; as a result, our issues are not treated with the attention they deserve, Idrissa said.
The outcry to have a public holiday during `Eid Al-Adha celebrations is getting louder and louder among Muslims across the country. But since this is an issue of the law, it's to be taken to parliament where it would be passed into law to facilitate the process.
The success of this proposal is in the National Assembly, where unfortunately we are in a minority. Our small numbers can't in any way influence the success of this proposed declaration. Our only hope is in the forthcoming Tripartite Elections next year.
We hope we will have a good number of Muslims in parliament to support this matter, she added.
The Muslim leader stressed that Malawi Muslims have been avoiding participation in politics at various levels since the country's independence.
Major decisions have been made by Christians who have dominated almost all spheres of public life since the country attained independence about 50 years ago, Idrissa said.
At first, all had seemed well, but it's now that we are feeling the consequences of our inactive participation in politics. Things are working to our disadvantage now in almost every sector of the society, she added.
Mwalone Jangiya, a Muslim legislator representing a predominantly Muslim area in the country concurs with Idrissa.
The numbers of Muslims in the national Assembly are very small and can't have any impact at all during debates of crucial issues like the proposed holiday. This proposal would not have the numbers at this time to sail through, Mwalone, told OnIslam.net.
There is need to garner much support within parliament from our Christian counterparts, which is not easy. Since most of them would not appreciate its significance. Otherwise, at this time, we can't succeed.
Renowned Muslim Scholar and Academician, Dr. Imran Shareef agrees that unless there was a massive representation of Muslims in the National Assembly it would remain a far-fetched dream to have a public holiday declared during `Eid Al-Adha celebrations.
The whole challenge lies in the House, where laws of the country are made. Unless we increase our numbers of representation there, it would still remain a huge challenge and a far-fetched dream to have this holiday in Malawi, Dr. Shareef told OnIslam.net.
What we need to do is to have a fair representation in the House, so that once this has been brought for debate, there should be enough numbers to support it and have it passed into law.
Because, once there is a law, nobody would tamper with that law to have the holiday removed for selfish motives or otherwise. The law would protect our interests as Muslims in this regard, he added.
As the country gears for the tripartite elections next year, a Muslim organization has been mobilizing Muslims across the country to participate in the polls as candidates in its quest to have Muslims strategically positioned in areas of influence in the country.
We are always at the receiving end because; we are very few in places where decisions are made, Alhaj Sheikh Jaffa lie Kawinga, president of the Muslim Forum for Democracy and Development (MUSFORD), told OnIslam.net.
Unless, we increase our numbers, we will always be at the end in everything.
Musford has been accredited by the country's electoral body, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to provide civic and voter registration ahead of the polls.
Islam is the second largest religion in Malawi after Christianity.
Muslims account for 12 percent of the country's 14 million population. But MAM puts the number at 36 percent according to the census it conducted a few years ago.
Despite the fact that we are the second largest religion in the country, we are not getting an ample share in form of quality services and attention, because, where decisions are made, either we are not there or we are in a minority, said Idrissa.