Norway: Muslims want national holiday

Muslim politicians in Norway are lobbying for establishment of a new national holiday to celebrate the end of a month of fasting. They think the holiday should be recognized along the same lines as Christmas.

"The best would be to get Eid-al-Fitr (most commonly called "id" in Norway) on the calendar as a public free day for everyone," Yousef Gilani, a city politician in Drammen, told newspaper VG. Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Fast of Ramadan, was celebrated on October 24 this year.

It's an occasion of family feasts and celebration for thousands of Norway's immigrants and descendants of immigrants, the majority of whom are from Pakistan. Muslim families and groups were celebrating their religious holiday around the country on Monday night, rather like Christmas Eve for the Christian community, but all had to work or go to school as usual the next day.

The Fast of Ramadan, meanwhile, began on September 23 and lasted for an entire month. Muslims observe it by fasting during the daylight hours and eating only in the evening before visiting friends and family. It is a time of worship and contemplation, Muslims say, a time to strengthen family and community ties.

Gilani believes that at least the Muslim community should get the day off when "id" is marked. The actual day changes from year to year, depending on the Muslim calendar.

In some organizations, they already do. The state ombudsman for issues dealing with equality and discrimination gives Muslim employees the day off if they request it.

"All groups will benefit when Muslims are free on their important holidays," said ombud Beate Gangås. "It's a win-win situation. Some religious groups can work during the Christmas holidays, for example, and get another day off in return."

She thinks all employers should be open to such a system. At present, nine of Norway's 12 national holidays are linked to Christian traditions

Needless to say, there are no national holidays linked to non-Christian traditions.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

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