Muslims call for special bank holidays

By JAMES CHAPMAN 10:27am 15th August 2006

Muslim leaders summoned to talks with the Government on tackling extremism in their midst called for public holidays to mark their religious festivals. The Whitehall meeting was set up in response to last week's airline bomb plot discovery.

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly had prepared an uncompromising message on the need to tackle dangerous radicalism. But, in what she admitted were 'sharp' exchanges, some senior Muslim figures turned the tables yesterday and made a series of demands which also included the introduction of Sharia law for family matters.

Dr Syed Aziz Pasha, secretary general of the Union of Muslim Organisations of the UK and Ireland, said: 'We told her if you give us religious rights, we will be in a better position to convince young people that they are being treated equally along with other citizens.' Dr Pasha said Miss Kelly had agreed to look at the proposals, though her spokesman insisted later that she did not favour any legal change which would give 'special treatment' for the Muslim community.

Some of the 30 moderate Muslim leaders at the meeting told Miss Kelly that important days in their two main religious festivals - Ramadan and Eid-ul-Adha - should be made public holidays for followers of the faith. Sharia law, which is practised in large parts of the Middle East, should also be introduced in Britain, they argued. While it specifies stonings and amputations as routine punishments for crimes, Dr Pasha said he wanted it only for family affairs. Under the law, a husband pays his wife a dowry on marriage, and money and assets are shared out between family members in specified amounts after someone dies. 'We are willing to co-operate but there should be a partnership,' Dr Pasha said. 'They should understand our problems then we will understand their problems.'

A recent poll suggested that a third of British Muslims would rather live under Sharia law, while a similar number said they also hope Britain will one day become an Islamic state. But Dr Pasha claimed the legal changes he proposed would help convince young Muslims to integrate better into British society. The Union of Muslim Organisations of the UK and Ireland claims to be a widely representative umbrella group. However, it does not include more influential and high-profile bodies such as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the MCB, also attended the meeting but distanced his group from the calls for Sharia law. He said: 'We believe one legal code should apply for all citizens of the UK. There is no place for multiple legal systems for people of different religious or ethnic backgrounds.

'If people object to a certain law they should campaign peacefully and democratically for a change - but only so that it applies to all people, not just Muslims.' The Government has accused Muslim leaders of a 'dreadful misjudgment' for claiming its foreign policy has fuelled the threat of extremism. An open letter, signed by three Muslim MPs, three peers and 38 community groups, said the 'debacle' of Iraq, combined with the recent failure to do more to bring about an immediate end to the Middle East conflict, had encouraged extremists who threaten Britain.

Three hours of talks:                                                                                                                                                                                                After more than three hours of talks with the senior Muslims, Miss Kelly insisted foreign policy in Iraq and the Middle East was not the 'root cause' of fundamentalism. But she acknowledged there were 'different views' over aspects of Government policy and there had been a series of 'sharp and challenging exchanges'. 'There is a battle of hearts and minds to be won within the Muslim community, working with the Muslim community to take on the terrorist and extremist elements that are sometimes found within it, not just in the Muslim community, but elsewhere as well.'

Muslims must feel that if there was frustration on particular issue, there were ' democratic channels for that to be vented', she added. 'What I do accept is that there is a lot of anger and frustration out there in the community that needs to be properly expressed and vented through the democratic process.'

Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, and Communities Minister, Meg Munn, also attended the meeting. Moves being discussed include 'de-radicalisation forums' to help young Muslims engage with Government policy, improved spiritual guidance for Muslim university students and support for training of imams. Haras Rafiq, of the Sufi Muslim Council, said: 'The first thing that we need to do as a community is admit there is a problem. 'It is like being an alcoholic - we need to stand up and say these things and have an open and honest debate.'

Kharshid Ahmed, chairman of the British Muslim Forum, said: 'We believe that the threat is still external - it is people coming from outside and leading the radicalisation. 'We need to deal with that before people inside our communities are leading the radicalisation.'

There are currently eight permanent bank and public holidays in Britain. Three fall on religious days - Christmas Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday. The latter two are common law holidays - not specified by law as bank holidays as they were traditionally days of rest and to go to Church.



The other bank holidays were made law in 1871, to give their workers time off - causing other businesses dependent on the banks to follow suit.

Reader comments (81) 81 people have commented on this story so far. Tell us what you think below.

Here's a sample of the latest comments published. You can click view all to read all comments that readers have sent in.

It's funny - apparently these Muslim leaders who went to this meeting have forgotten one thing (and the MCB managed to remember!) that as Muslims living in a non-Muslim country, we HAVE to abide by the laws of the land. As a Muslim myself, I do not see why we should have to incorporate Sharia law when the laws of England and of Great Britain as a whole are wholly sufficient and if they were all followed properly, we would be living a peaceful life

They want us to integrate but it seems the Muslim leaders are messing things up so much that we are now getting further and further away from integration. Any Tom, Dick and Harry nowadays can call himself a 'Muslim' leader. Let's face it guys, how many of you have been voted into that position? I don't like the idea that someone who feels the way these leaders do is being given my voice! I want my voice back and it seems that extremists are taking away my right to live a happy life!  Why should British people suffer needlessly?
- Yoyo, Burnley, Lancashire

I have a friend who is a Pagan. He claims that Pagans and other 'religions' are already able to take time off work for their festivals. Apparently this right is enshrined in recent work related legislation. - Sarah, Cobham, Surrey

After discussing the above with an intelligent work colleague, she raised a very interesting question. Can anyone please tell me how many Christian public holidays are observed in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran etc.? - Mh, Harrow, Middx. 

They still represent a very small percentage of our population. There are plenty of countries where they would get all their wishes granted. - Mike Carver, London 

I cannot believe what I am reading! While living in this country we operate under British law. Let's not forget this is a Christian country. If people are not happy with this arrangement, then let them live in a country where Shariah law does exist. Can anyone tell me how many Christian religious festivals are observed in Pakistan?  - Carol, Stalybridge UK 

When Saudia Arabia permits the celebration of Christmas and Easter, and permits Christians to consume Sacramental wine, then we in the UK will consider permitting Islamic celebrations of similar significance. Fair?  - Stephen Brown, Chichester, Sussex.

If the Muslims have religions days off, the Catholics, the Jews, the Buddhists, the Sikhs and the Pagans, oh and lets not forget the Christians, then the country can shut down as we would be on permanent holidays. We need less bank holidays and religious holidays, not more. This country doesn't need any more excuses not to work, we are lazy enough already as a nation. - Connie, Stirling, Scotland 

If Sharia law is so important to these people then maybe it should be suggested they reside in countries where Sharia law is practiced like Saudia Arabia. That would surely solve their problems. - Tracey Koop, Newcastle, Australia

If this is to be considered then I would like the Jewish New Year...2 days... and the Jewish Day of Atonement, 1 day. The Jewish people have many more important days that should be considered. Up until now we have been taking this time from our annual leave. However if the Muslims are to be considered for special treatment then we should too.- Carol Collier, London, England

Political correctness gone mad! Ban it now! - Anon, UK

I was under the impression that we lived in a democracy. When representatives of 2.8% of the population tell the government that they want public holidays for their religious days and want laws that are abhorrent to the 97.2% that do not follow that religion. I don't expect the government to look into anything without the wishes of all being taken into consideration. - Walter, Catterick UK

Question: Do any of the Muslim states recognise the Christian public holidays? If so we should follow suit but if not then shouldn't the majority rule just like in any democratic society. Muslims should be allowed to follow their faith no matter what country they live in. - Dave, Thailand

Muslims already have the benefit of the public holidays the UK provides and I see many of them taking full advantage of the Christmas and Easter holidays too. - Apu, London.

The Government refused to make St George's Day a national bank holiday but we are supposed accept Muslim bank holidays and pass Sharia Law as applicable here in Britain, in order that Muslim youth feel equal in British Society. Where are we living, Britain or Iran? - Hw, UK


Yes, of course - let's have more bank holidays! But why stop at adding Muslim religious holidays? I'm all for adding the Jewish holidays, too... and the Chinese, Sikh, Russian ... in fact, the more the merrier! - Margarida Jordan, Lisbon, Portugal

Sharia law was almost allowed in Ontario, Canada until public opinion against the idea was listened to by our socialist type Liberal government and was rejected. - Randy, Toronto, Canada 

This is still a Christian country so ANY religious holidays should be purely Christian ones. We have had Chinese, Jews and Sikhs in this country far longer than Muslims, yet none of these groups have demanded special holidays for their religious dates. - Mike Hearne, Darlington 

And I would love for Saudi Arabia to allow me, as a woman, to drive - Jessica Bennett, CA, USA

Britain is not a Muslim Country and the Muslim religious festivals have no place in our public holidays which are based on our own history, culture and monarchy. When English people go to live in other countries they would not dream of insulting the people of those countries by demanding public holidays which have no relation to their beliefs or history. Such a request would be, and is, an affront. - Anon, Bristol 

The brazen cheek of the Muslim community leaders astounds and concerns me greatly. - Declan, Sydney, Australia

I don't see Jews, Sikhs, Hindus or Buddhists making similar demands for Britain to create bank holidays to mark their religious days. Why should the Muslims get special treatment? The next thing you know they will be asking us to get rid of Christmas because it offends them. - Max, Cambridge

In the spirit of integrating into society, where does this fit in? - Steve, New Zealand 

Islamic countries don't adjust to any other religious holidays but their own so why should Britain a non-Islamic country suddenly become Islamic? This makes no sense at all. I think Britain has been nice enough to the Muslim communities. Muslims seem to think they can do whatever they want here but in actual fact it's up to them to integrate! In a few years time we'll not be working at all because we will have holidays for Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews and all other religions I have left out. This is ridiculous.
- Jennifer, London

The UK is a Christian country and always will be. - Michelle, Burnley, Lancs

Muslim bank Holidays. Great idea! And Buddhist bank holidays. And Jewish Bank holidays. And Hindu bank holidays. And one for Trafalgar Day. And St. Patricks day Bank Holidays. And what about a national holiday for Winnie the Poohs birthday? - Amleahy, London UK

Britain is not a Muslim country; it is Christian. - Vera Barnes., Paraparaumu. New Zealand.

Sharia law in the UK! It's about time these people either accept that UK is different or leave and move somewhere they find more to their liking. - Andy Messias, Didim, Turkey

Has Dr Pasha forgotten that UK is a democratic society? I doubt that the majority of Brits would warm to Sharia 'law'. - Diana Pearce, Perth Australia

No other religious grouping demands and receives specially recognised religious holidays, and no exceptions should be made here now. For example, the Jews arrange and take off their days as necessary and it works very well. - Brian Deller, Marbella.

If Muslims get their religious holidays, will they be prepared to give up rights to British religious bank holidays such as Christmas and Easter?- Jennifer, Interlaken, Switzerland

Simple solution. If you want Islamic holidays and law - go and live in an Islamic country! Most of us DO NOT want this to become an Islamic country. - Chas, Leatherhead, Surrey 

This is quite outrageous. What is the logic behind this? - David Cooke, Oxford

Will the Islamic states let other denominations have a public holiday as well? Not likely! - Ted, Cape Town

If people want to live by Sharia law, then they should live in a country that uses it. And not inflict it upon other countries.We aren't allowed a public holiday for St Georges day. So why give in to other ethnic callings. This government should stand up for us and not bow down to all and sundry. - John, Clacton, Essex

Public holidays for religious occasions I can accept. But on no account should we give in to the demand for Sharia law, even it is on 'family matters'. Once allowed in that area, it would be used as a foothold to widen the law into other areas. - Peter Brown, Manchester 



Who is going to pay for these Bank Holidays! I would probably need to ask my community leader if I knew who he was. - Pete, Manchester

"A recent poll suggested that a third of British Muslims would rather live under Sharia law" Off you go then - Saudi Arabia awaits. - Jules, London UK 

Have I missed something here? This is England, a Christian country. I'd like to see 30 Christians sitting shouting the odds in a Middle Eastern country. If they don't like the way we live then they're more than welcome to go and live in any Muslim country.
People of this Country have had just about enough of this ~ there will end up being a civil war here
- Sam, UK

If people want to live in our Christian Country they should abide by our traditions and not make demands for special treatment/ holidays, etc. - Rachel, Cambridge

Britain is a Christian country and the Queen is both Head of State and Head of the Church of England. Moslems who came here did so in full knowledge of those facts. Britain is NOT a Moslem country and never will be. - Charlie, Isle of Man

Politicians who bend over backwards often fall flat on their face. - Roger Doughty, Amsterdam Nederlands

Remind them where they are, what country they are living in, and if they don't like it they can leave. - Alan D., Aberdeen

The government should remind these people that they live in the U.K and they should conform with British laws. - T.G. Spain

If the Muslims who are living in Britain don't like our way of life and our laws then nobody is forcing them to stay here. There are a lot of countries around the world that recognise Islamic festivals and have public holidays to celebrate them and they practise Sharia law so why donít they go and live there. - Craig, Oldham, England

The letter that the Muslim leaders sent to Tony Blair is an insult, so now they blame us for their extreme radicals? The UK policy is not the cause for these extreme radicals who spread terror, it's the Muslim education and incitment, they hate anything and anyone who is not Muslim. - Guy, London

And what will they do if they don't get their way this time? You never hear similar demands from the Jewish community or any other religious community in the UK. Lets hope the politicians are not as stupid as they appear and give in to blackmail. - J Balaam, Vlaardingen, The Netherlands

This just demonstrates why non-Muslim British people are viewing the Muslim community with increased suspicion and mistrust.
- Karl, Lancs, UK

How ridiculous! What next, different laws for all the different cultures and faiths? - Peter Wright, Nottingham. England

It is absolutely appalling that the Muslims (or some of them) are calling for their own laws and bank holidays. The UK has its own rules and to give in to this demand would be a disgrace. - Peter Smith, Montreal, Canada

Muslim bank holidays are the least of our worries - there were also calls at the meeting for the introduction of Sharia law to settle Muslim family disputes. Any such development would be a disaster for Muslim women, who are devalued by Sharia. It must not be permitted to happen. Britain should hold fast to its principle that everyone is equal under the law - and not Sharia law. - Terry Sanderson, London, UK

Politically Correct or not - this idea must be nipped in the bud or, before we know it, we'll ALL be living under Sharia law - the option is open to these people if they don't like it here they can always go back to their roots. - Freddie, Northants

If Muslims want extra holidays, can everybody else have them too, or are they asking theirs to be made a 'special' case. - Ryk, London

If Muslims want special holidays why don't they go and live in a Muslim country? - Elaine, Bournemouth, UK

Whilst Britain has become a diverse community I feel that it is important to remember the phrase 'when in Rome'. Other cultures should be free to celebrate their history but they should remember that they are still much the minority and the majority opinion and practice should prevail. - Hugh Craven, Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

Due to my husband's business, I lived for over 35 years in Muslim Countries. In all that time we had to respect the religion, the customs and the people. We chose to stay in these countries, so naturally adhered to their strict rules. I cannot for the life of me, understand why we British people are being told by Muslims, who after all chose to live in this Country, that we must change our British way of life in order to suit them and so as not to offend anyone. - Samantha, Farnham


I simply do not believe this. Britain is supposed to be a Christian country, with only one Established Church. - Toby Woolrych, Velez Malaga, Spain

Perhaps we should also introduce public holidays for other minority groups in the UK too - Australia Day, Bastille Day, Independence Day..... Where do we draw the line? - Sueb, Cheshire

If there is ever a way to further divide a country then that is to allow different holiday days for different communities. If they want these holidays they should live in countries where these holidays are standard. In Holland I have to accept Dutch rules, laws and holidays. If I want UK holiday dates then I will return to the UK. Itís my choice where I live. - Steve, Rotterdam

This is quite unbelievable that they should make such audacious demands. - Rakesh, Birmingham

I watched a programme on Channel 4 called "Sharia TV" a Muslim debating forum.  Listening to that, I would say there is no room for Sharia Law in our 21st century democracy. If you live in Britain, British Law applies to protect us all; you can't pick and chose the ones you like. - Roy, Middlesbrough

How will having their own separate laws help Muslims to integrate into British society? - Peter Purbrick, Durham

Simply unbelievable and is something that will never be accepted by the Christian population. - Kevin Brewer, Majorca, Spain

It is demands like this which are causing the friction between Moslems and non-Moslems. If they want these special arrangements let them go and live in a Moslem country and see how their demands would be met there. - Ann, London

I hope this audacious demand provides food for thought for the Prince of Wales. His idea of being called defender of 'Faith' vs 'the Faith,' when he becomes king, might sound warmly inclusive but simply supports these sorts of never-ending claims of entitlement. I would much prefer to see his role as being defender of 'reason' or 'wisdom' since the faith thing hasn't seemed to have got us very far over the last few hundred years. - Irene, Windsor

Well, there are plenty of countries that have Muslim holidays. Why don't they go there? - Calli, London

They went to talk about a threat to kill 1000ís of people and demanded more public holidays. - Paul Noden, Lutterworth

The Moslems complain about Islamaphobia and fail to see that it is they who promote it by their statements and actions. - Alan, Sydbury UK

Who's integrating with who? - Mike, Coventry

I'm as much in favour of public holidays as anyone else, but isn't England supposed to be a Christian country? I'm not even a Christian, but I fully accept that. Let's look at it from the other perspective - how many Muslim countries would be willing to recognise Christian holidays to appease its) percentage of the population? I know we're all living in Bend-Over-And-Take-It-Britain, but this is getting ridiculous! - Lee, Northants, England)

This is a Christian country - when are these people going to realise that. - Cathy, Watford, Hertfordshire

It might just be the first time I make a point of going to work on a bank holiday! - Anne K, London, UK

The 17th May is the Norwegian National Day and this is of course one of the most important days in the year for Norwegians. Being Norwegian, I would really like to have this day off. Ruth Kelly, please can I? I am definitely part of a minority in this country.  - Htp, Llandudno 

First we get Prescott 'praising' the public for their patience and understanding at the airports. Who is he patronising? Why donít they ask the general public what we REALLY think?  Ruth Kelly should have dismissed this out of hand or does 'New Labour' like winding up the rest of the country. - Pete, Manchester

British Muslim leaders are clearly taking advantage of this situation by making demands for their own gain. Muslims in this country are treated equally and have always had the right to take days off to celebrate their festivals. Islam is not a egotistical religion, so why is it that extreme Muslims feel the need to conquer and dictate to the rest of the world? - Sp, UK

As a Christian living and working here in Turkey. I do not expect a holiday at Christmas or at Easter. It would be a ridiculous expectation. - Paul Beal, Antalya, Turkey 

This country is governed by 'the law of the land' - civil law. There is 'religious' law for many religions which is superseded by civil law. This has to apply to Muslims in the same way as Jews and everyone else. - Wom, London, England



Not living at home on a regular basis I often miss out on current contentious debates but I will be surprised if the essence of the attached Daily Mail feature is not discussed in many tap rooms this lunchtime. - Dave, , Den Hague, Netherlands

As a Londoner I would like to see July 7th 2005 as a day of remembrance. - David, London

When people are happy in a relationship they give each other gifts. That does not seem to be the case between the Muslims and the rest. Friendship needs to be earned not given - Alan Grocock, Huntingdon Cambs.

When will Muslims stand up for the rights of Christians (even amongst their own people) in other countries? - Colin, Nottingham UK

This is a Christian country at the end of the day. If we moved out to a Muslim country we would have to adhere to their rules which is the right thing to do. Ė Lee Ann, Wolverhampton