Holiday, holy day

Today Muslims all over the Philippines mark Eid’l Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, one of the two greatest feasts of Islam. President Aquino declared this day a regular holiday, through Proclamation 276 pursuant to Republic Act 9849 which provides that Eid’l Adha be celebrated as such. To be sure, RA 9849, signed in 2009, merely codified what had been happening shortly before it: the Arroyo administration giving recognition to Christian and non-Christian feasts, as well as to sectarian and non-sectarian observances, while also putting into effect what it called its “holiday economics.”

However, since the Eid’l Adha, as well as other non-Christian but sectarian rites, are observed where Catholics are dominant, there may be something lost in the observance. For instance, the metropolitan media reported on Malacañang’s declaration that the Muslim feast would be observed as a regular holiday, predictably enough, in secular and economic terms: “Another long weekend is coming up,” gleefully opened the lead of one news story, like a school child jumping for joy upon hearing that classes have been suspended.

The import was immediate: with the extended weekend, there would be more time for malling or going out of town and sousing up and generally getting merry and messy. For the previous administration, the Ro-Ro would be chugging between the islands, and its holiday-economics cash register would be ringing quite brilliantly. For the new administration, it would mean a way of ingratiating itself with the Muslims and perhaps assuring those who dream of a Bangsamoro republic, or at least a substate, that their cause is being considered, perhaps short of giving surreptitiously the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leadership another P5-million sweetener.

We’re being cynical, of course. But there must be a way of recognizing, as well as appreciating, sectarian observances without the liberal tokenism and trivialization that usually go with proclaiming them as national memorials. Malacañang says the declaration of a Muslim feast as a holiday is a recognition of the multiculturalism of Philippine society. But multiculturalism is sometimes disguised globalism that’s economics-driven.

For Muslims and religionists, holidays are holy days; they’re not occasions for the state congratulating itself for its ignorance or mercenarism masking as tolerance and enlightenment.

Eid’l Adha is one of Islam’s two major festivals celebrated by more than 1 billion Muslims around the world. The other, of which Christian Filipinos have become more familiar, is the Eid’l Fitr, the festival that marks the breaking of the fast at the end of the month of Ramadan. Eid’l Adha marks the culmination of the month-long hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holy cities. To mark the event, pilgrims from different parts of the world perform prayers and rituals which culminate with the slaughtering of a sacrificial lamb or goat.

The sacrifice alludes to Ibrahim’s (Abraham to Jews and Christians) sacrifice of one of his sons after he was ordered to do so by God. He was of course stopped by God who was merely testing him and who, satisfied with his obedience, asked him to do the ritual sacrifice of the usual animal instead.

Islam, in fact, means submission to the will of Allah. It recognizes the Old Testament as divinely inspired and traces its lineage and mandate to Ibrahim himself, “the father of all nations.”

Much has been made of the sectarian divisions between Islam and Christianity, and between Islam and Judaism, but all three are a triad of streams issuing from the same river of monotheism that, by and large, is an improvement of the polytheisms of old. In the context of the Philippines which is an outgrowth of the Judeo-Christian civilization and the Hellenic spirit that created Europe, monotheism has served as an engine of unity, amalgamating diverse tribes and tongues (with their own versions of polytheism) spread over thousands of islands that, in Catholic-inspired imagery, look like rosary beads scattered across the ocean, but strung together by a civilization of faith and charity. Much of that civilizing and stringing effect continues up to now as Christians and Muslims seek dialogue and understanding. The challenge is not insurmountable since both their religions issue from the same monotheism.

Categories: Philippines

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