Shall we make Eid a bank holiday?
While Muslims all over Britain celebrate the end of Ramadan, Conservative MP Bob Blackman has championed an e-petition – now with more than 120,000 signatures – to make Eid and Diwali public holidays. I plan to add my own name to that list. I may be neither Muslim, Hindu, but I’m pro a national day off.
But remember those glorious, bonus bank holidays bestowed upon us as a result of Will and Kate’s nuptials? the right to sit very still in one’s own home for 24 hours.
Obviously, the point of this e-petition is to honour the fact that for Muslims and Hindus these are the most important days in their faiths, plus, as Blackman suggests, a national holiday would demonstrate that Britain “embraces” the faiths. I’ll go further and suggest that to embrace faiths we need to attempt to understand some entry-level facts about them. Social cohesion can only come through education and exposure to one another’s “special things”. More has been done for community harmony by encouraging tiny kids of all faiths to make Diwali lanterns for their mothers, or by Asda stocking shelves of Cadbury’s Heroes under a sign screaming “Eid Mubarak!”, than a hundred complex multicultural initiatives.
It’s useful for all of us living together in Britain to realise that – give or take the odd custom, godly tale or forbidden food product– we all do the same sort of things on our special holidays. We like food, fireworks, sparkly things, smart clothes, meeting up with family, dancing, laughing, gossiping and taking stock of the year before. More holidays within Britain for other faiths could help us remember that there’s more keeping us together than the petty things which drive us apart.
Ramadan and its climax, Eid, were mysterious terms to me until I lived close to Brits who observed it – starving stoically between 5am and 9pm for 29 days – and the penny dropped that it’s essentially turbo-Lent. Not Lent in a flimsy “Ooh I might give up Lion Bars for Baby Jesus” manner. Remove all the food, all the water, all the sex, and let’s have a nice long think about where you are in life, what you actually need and who you can help, with a party at the end which feels a lot to the agnostic onlooker like Christmas Day.