‘THE Moon Has Been Sighted’: Two EID AL FITR Public Holiday Observed?
Alagi Yorro Jallow
The politics of moon sighting is as local as it is global. As a child, I remember seeing some funny elderly folks (Sererer, Jolas and the Yetteh Bah’s) who would insist their special eyes had seen the moon on the 29th fasting day and would celebrate Eid Al Fitr the following day while we fasted. And, because they enjoyed enjoying life, their fast-forwarded celebration would be further extended to join our own day of Eid Al Fitr. We used to ask why. The answer we got was the repeat of the experience the following year. That was the déjà vu I felt when our government jumped the gun and saw the moon during fasting before the rest of the world saw it and prepared a Public Holiday Press release declare two days Eid Al Fitr Public Holidays, a tradition since the First Republic. I felt it when the government took blame to the market Eid Fitr Public Holiday as the new work-free day.
What is the logic, the Government’s unnecessary declaration of two days of Eid Al Fitr Public Holiday declared “Tuesday 4th June and Wednesday 5th June as Public Holidays throughout The Gambia in observance of the Muslim feast of Eid-ul- Fitr”?
I think Gambians are truly the happiest people on earth. I always knew Gambians could joke about anything- good or bad, fortune or misfortune. And, if you doubted this, what followed the Government’s unnecessary declaration of Tuesday and Wednesday as an additional Eid Al Fitr holiday should convince you nothing saddens us for long. Spontaneous, caustic, costly tradition immediately took over from the initial shock and disbelief that followed that governmental unnecessary extra day of public holiday throughout the country. And, no one was spared. What happened to the Public Holidays Acts? This Act need to be amended: The most wicked tradition for example, “the moon has been sighted in Brikama Nyambai”, why can’t the whole Gambia observe EID Al Fitr one day instead encouraging two Eid Al Fitr, and days Public Holidays!
Why does the Supreme Islamic Council not advise government about the moon sighting avoiding unnecessary extra public holidays or multiple Eid Al Fitr — Even Nostradamus never claimed to know the exact date he only saw the moon. That the Supreme Islamic Council and the government had an infinite capacity for imagining the impossible for one day observance of Eid Al Fitr.
If all Muslims do not have same attitude to salient issues such as when to work and when to enjoy life, can we take another look at the Public Holidays Act as we demand for a truly republic of the Gambia. America has several days as public holidays but only eight are federal holidays, even Boxing Day is observed as holiday in only seven states there. I do not know if we felt anything with the decision of the United States embassy in the Gambia to work on two holidays. It should tell us something about how outsiders consider us and the way we run our public affairs.
When a Gambian elite hear of holidays, what do they do? Even before holidays are declared, the elite who work in government offices, how many days of the week do they work? It is no one’s work and so, they must not lose their sweat doing it. The mindset of the working elite is the same as that of those in government. That was why no one in power cautioned those who frittered away a whole week in the life of this nation, preparing to celebrate, celebrating and doing postmortem on public holidays. Are we really a lazy nation? I do not think so. When working for themselves, Gambians do not like holidays, and, in fact, they do no go on leave. Turning us into a work-hating nation is an elite construct.
The Holy Books ask us to look at certain other creations, especially the ant, for guidance on how to order our ways. We do that in our private lives. But are the minders of our public affairs not looking at the opposite of this divine guidance? They appear taking after the owl monkeys. These ones sleep 17 hours during the day and are very active at night. They also derive inspiration from others such as slow-moving opossums for whom food, water and shelter are determinants of where they stay. But Gambian are not lazy. The problem is the government with a very wrong work ethic.
A broke nation that burnt a whole week celebrating. And because we joke about everything, someone said Gambia lost millions to that wasted week and another countered, asking where the millions made in the weeks Gambians worked were? What kind of poverty does Gambia suffer from and why is it poor? You do not have to look far for answers. If you played, as a youth, for so long that you forgot to work and get a life, you shouldn’t demand any respect for your grey hair at old age. There was the story of the slave who was happy that an early morning rain made a leveler of him and his owner – both relaxing, enjoying when he was supposed to have cleared acres of farmland. He sang. He whistled, throwing broadsides at the boss. His owner sang back assuring him that he was doomed to combining that day’s labor with the next day’s. Poor work ethics cannot lead to prosperity. A nation in the dark cannot see the light by sleeping in the cavernous alley of indolence.