A couple of days ago was the Mulsim festival of Eid-Ul-Fitr. Today I tried to read up about it to find out why it is celebrated. To be honest, in my ignorance I could not find a very coherent answer. But this is what I have gathered:(and please, my Muslim brothers and sister, feel free to correct me or provide some more information)
Eid is celebrated because the almighty Allah had commanded it. He had also commanded 40 days of fasting before hand, in preparation so his children could fully appreciate what they have been given, and in that knowledge, they should rejoice and feast!
When I was in the UK, I taught in a little inner-city school called Edgewick. I was immensely proud of this place and enjoyed, on the whole, of going into work everyday. You see, Edgewick was no ordinary school. Its cohort was made up of a significant and growing Muslim population. But that’s not what made it special. It was special because alongside that Muslim population there were Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Christians, with a Christian at the healm and staff from various faiths too. You might think it was a stressful place to work, but it wasn’t. Thanks to the head teacher and staff, it was an amazing place to work. We partied hard and we worked harder. We celebrated everything just so the children would grow up to value themselves and their varied backgrounds. We did this because only when a child learns to value themselves, they can learn to value those around them. And it worked. I am so proud of these children and their behavior and I miss them dearly.
I believe this school represents how the world should be. How Multicultural Britain could be. Not one person who is a part of this establishment felt any less British during the Olympics. Oh my goodness, we were there! Our school and, I believe, 200 or so others, was picked out of hundreds in Britain to go to the Olympics and be a part of it. We were all so proud! The children beamed in assembly as the Head told them the news. We sang and danced and painted and wrote ballads, all in the name of this great honour. Mandeville, or possibly Wenlock(I get confused) visited our school during our Sports Day. We were a part of Great Britain then. These children were British! Oh, the pride at every medal won! But hold on a minute! They were Muslims too. They fasted, and we helped. They took the day off for Eid and we allowed it. But in the rest of Britain, Eid was a metaphysical idea that may or may not exist, in the realms of those Muslim Extremists; something they’ve heard of, but have never really experienced. People went to work, they had lunch, worked some more and then came home. The fact that there were thousands of citizens around the country celebrating one of their most important festivals, passed them by.
Here, in Calcutta, the whole city grinds to a halt. The streets are impassable and public transport, a nightmare. It’s declared a public holiday! Yet this is a Hindu country. With Independence day just a few days away, we are asked to provide Idlis for an “India Day” celebration at school, we are asked to make our children wear orange, green and white. This Independence meant that the British quit the country but just the day before it meant that Muslims got their own country too and the mass exodus and migration culminated in bloodshed and heartbreak. Isn’t it a little miraculous then, that the Muslims in this Hindu state are given the right not to show up to work and the Hindus, Christians, Jains, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and anyone in between, get a holiday too? Needless to say it happens for all the major Hindu and Christian festivals too, but isn’t that just wonderful?
I’m not sure what I’m trying to say except that I love the idea of celebrating absolutely everything and everyone as long as we’re not celebrating murder and persecution. The world is becoming smaller and we have to be more aware of the people around us, because there are always people around us. There would be so much more joy in the world if we could share the joy that we experience on a societal level.
I think back to my time at Edgewick, first as a pupil, then as a teacher. There were fewer gloomy days than the days we spent with glitter on our clothes celebrating each other’s festivals. We made each other Christmas cards and Diwali cards, took home painted divas and Advent Calendars. I think perhaps if the whole world could do the same we’d all live a little happier, see God a little more often and perhaps be inclined to kill each other a little less. Maybe.