Spanish Government Considers Making Islamic Feasts Public Holidays

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The Spanish government could designate major Muslim feasts as public holidays, a senior diplomat has said.

Javier Herrera-García Canturri, a career diplomat who currently advises the country’s Ministry of Justice on inter-faith relations, said the government was “considering” the move when it unveils a package of labour reforms later this year.

In an interview with news agency Europa Press, he also said the government may allow people to give up to 0.7 per cent of their income tax to a variety of faiths, including Islam, Judaism, Protestant churches or Buddhism.

Currently, they can only choose to do this for the Catholic Church – or alternatively designate the funds for the government’s cultural budget.

As Islam, along with some other faiths, does not have a formal institutional structure, it is unclear which organisations would actually receive the funds.

Public holidays vary widely across the country, although each locality is limited to a maximum of 13 per year, nine of which are decided by the central government. If the government did introduce Muslim holidays, it would therefore have to eliminate others of a Christian or civil nature.

Currently, six of the nation-wide holidays mark Christian feasts, including Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday and All Saints Day. The others are secular.

Since 2010, the North African exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla – which have been on the frontline in Europe’s migrant crisis, and whose population is nearly 50 per cent Muslim – have celebrated the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha as one of their local public holidays.

However, according to the government’s Centre for Sociological Investigations, less than two per cent of the wider Spanish population identifies as Muslim.

Spain’s governing centre-right People’s Party only recently scraped back into power following two inconclusive elections. Since being reappointed Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy has pledged to fight populism, saying the growing anti-establishment mood in Europe would wane in 2017.

“If traditional political parties defend themselves with the same energy and good arguments as opponents of the system do, then things will stabilize,” he claimed.

He made no mention of the migrant crisis.