12 Feb 2012

Muslims call for transfer of religious holidays

2:18 pm on 12 February 2012

Muslims in New Zealand are to petition the Government to have Christmas and Easter public holidays transferred to days on which they celebrate their own religious festivals.

The Federation of Islamic Associations plans to discuss religious holidays as part of the Government's constitutional review.

Association president Anwar Ghani says at present, Muslims have to take up to four days' annual leave to celebrate religious holidays such as Eid-al-Fitr which marks the end of the month of Ramadan.

"It would be really a lot nicer if we had the provision to substitute one or two days of the other holidays so that we can, without sacrificing the annual leave, enjoy the festivities and feel that we have been included in the provisions of leave."

Dr Ghani says the Muslim community does not want to complicate the system, but it would like to discuss whether allowances could be made.

But a humanist group believes non-Christians should not be allowed to transfer Christmas and Easter holidays to their own festivals - as most people do not treat the days as religious holidays.

In the 2006 census, 34.7% of New Zealanders stated they have no religion.

John Murphy, president of the Association of Rationalists and Humanists, says for many people celebrating Christmas it is now about tradition and family time.

"It's more of a New Zealand cultural and society thing nowadays. The religious reasons are becoming a bit of an anachronism, given that a large portion of New Zealanders don't go to church and don't observe religious holidays.

"So the 'me too' argument doesn't wash, I think."

During the review period, the public will be consulted on a range of questions - from the size of Parliament to the role of the Treaty of Waitangi and whether New Zealand should have a written constitution.

The review panel will make its recommendations by September 2013.