What is Eid al-Adha?
Why do Muslims deserve a holiday on September 1? What is Eid al-Adha anyway? How different is it from Ramadan? Didn’t they already celebrate Ramadan a few months ago?
These are only some of the questions that I, and maybe a lot of us, am guilty of. I remember hearing side comments saying, “Isn’t it ironic that during Ramadan Muslims fast from 6am to 6pm and then they eat like kings after?”
From a totally alien perspective, it would seem so. I do not claim to be an expert on the Muslim faith, nor do I claim to have any deep understanding of their beliefs and practices.
All I know is that when I worked with Muslims back when I was in government service, I had to be conscious of the different Muslim feasts because it meant that I had to start adjusting my principal’s meetings with the Muslim leaders after 6pm, or in short intervals during the day. This was my only real exposure to what they were experiencing, particularly the difficulty of not being able to eat all day.
As a Catholic eating in front of Muslims when they were fasting, I felt ashamed that I was eating when they were not. But what can I do? I was hungry.
My takeaway from that whole experience was a sense of admiration for the process that they were going through. As someone who grew up in a very Catholic household, my only familiarity to that kind of fasting was during Lent, and I don’t even follow it religiously.
I remember thinking that I wouldn’t even last half a day of not eating or drinking anything. Otherwise, I’ll be worse than Miranda Priestly come lunchtime.
Realizing the Discrimination
Last Sunday, my fellow interns and I in the Ateneo Human Rights Center conducted a paralegal training (PLT) for a group of young Muslims. As preliminary questions, we asked them: first, “Ano ang hashtag ng buhay mo?” Second, “Ano ang bumabagabag sayo ngayon?”
The first question garnered a lot of millennial and lighthearted comments like #MagandaAko, #Blesssed, #GagraduateAko, #PagodPeroLabanLang. These comments didn’t seem any different from those that I would have given. It was the second question that got me thinking. The fifteen participants had one theme in common – a feeling of discrimination because of their religious belief.
The discrimination varies, from employment because of the bias against hiring Muslims to not being able to buy cellphones and Yamaha motorcycles; worst, they’re expected to have their IDs with them when they walk by checkpoints.
The level of discrimination goes deeper and simpler into an understanding of their beliefs and practices – from the lack of access to jalal food in the cafeteria to the inadvertent stares they get for wearing a hijab.
The PLT training made me realize how deeply ingrained the level of discrimination is. We can describe their situation in so many words: bias, inequality, prejudice; but all of these words only reflect the lack of understanding and effort to understand what 5.6% of our population goes through.
Why do we celebrate Eid al-Adha?
Eid al-Adha is also called the “Sacrifice Feast” and it honors the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, as an act of submission to God’s command. It marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the fifth Pillar of Islam.
It is considered to be more sacred than Eid al-Fitr, or the “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast,” which is a celebration of the end of Ramadan.
As a Catholic in a country where 80% are Catholics, I don’t really know and I don’t even claim to know the depth and complexities of the Muslim faith. All I know is this – we celebrate Eid al-Adha because we recognize that we are not a nation of only Catholic-Filipinos, but a Filipino nation composed of Christians, Moros, Chinese, Spanish-Mestizos, Fil-Ams, Mangyans, Aetas, and all the possible combinations we can think of.
It is this diversity that makes us Filipinos and the celebration of Eid al-Adha is just one concrete manifestation of how we respect and recognize this diversity.
I am Joan dela Cruz. I am a Filipino.