Being caught in the midst of two Eid days being celebrated in Canada this year, my mind goes back to an old episode a few years when I was in Europe.
At the end of the Ramadan in 2007, thus on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, Amsterdam ‘s police thought of sending its wishes to the city’s Muslim population, which represents a considerable part of its inhabitants. This was an excellent idea and found widespread support within the department. Hence the decision was taken.
But as the Dutch like doing things well, with a great sense of organization and attention to details, they wanted that the greeting letter arrived in the Muslim homes on the morning of Eid day. They envisaged the head of the family opening the missive with an impatient finger, then reading aloud, in a male voice but quivering with emotion, the message to the family assembled around him, and the family itself crying with pleasure on the idea that the police force should have been so thoughtful of them on this sacred day. The ladies launching dinghies or playing with their nails while the children would be running around in all directions, possessed with excitement.
But this scenario, that would have been poignant enough for a statue to shed tears, was not to take place. Because when the police wanted to fix, with the postal service, the date for delivering the greeting cards, it stumbled upon a slight problem: finding it impossible to get the Muslims of Amsterdam to agree! The Moroccans were claiming that it was Friday. Some of the Turks were insisting on Thursday, whereas others were adamant that Saturday was the day. The few Pakistanis who live in Amsterdam were shouting aloud, but without at all agreeing among themselves on the exact day. The Saudis, while offering to finance the construction of a mosque inside the police headquarters, were cohesive on the day, but not in any event the same day as the Yemenis and Omanis. As regards the Iranians, they were sniggering beneath their beards and it was not clear whether or not they would have hailed the idea of receiving Eid greetings from the allies of the ‘Big Satan’.
The police chief called the university and consulted with the experts in Islam who told him that it was a simple matter of sighting the moon. However the political strategy of Eid that he was confronted with had nothing to do with the position of the moon. Anyway, this was not the worst, which came when some Muslims found out that the police also intended to felicitate the Ahmedis. These people –primarily of Pakistani origin- call themselves Muslims, and the Dutch, not being well versed in the constitution of Pakistan, had no reason to not to believe them. Hence some of the Muslim leaders took it upon themselves to explain that people belonging to this sect accept the existence of another prophet, who appeared in 19th century, which is like yesterday. This thickened the plot and many a Muslims threatened to return the greeting cards if even one Ahmedi were to receive a card. Quite a few others insisted that the cards be delivered on the day which they had declared as the Eid day.
Finally, the police quite sensibly gave up the idea.
All this, of course, is the fault of the moon.