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BBC's Navdip Dhariwal reports on religious holidays
Religious holidays for all
 real 56k

Monday, 16 October, 2000, 18:49 GMT 19:49 UK
Religious holidays 'a right for all'
Many families cannot be together for Diwali
Mistry family prepares for Diwali
by the BBC's Navdip Dhariwal

The Mistry family prepare for Diwali with special prayers to bring peace and prosperity to their household.

It is the beginning of the Hindu and Sikh new year, but the family cannot always be together for the celebrations and feel a public holiday to mark the festival would mean they could all enjoy it.

Amita Mistry feels all her family should be able to take part without losing days from work.

"It would be so much easier if there was a national holiday that everyone could celebrate. That way it would be easier, like on my parents, who wouldn't have to take a day off work to come home and celebrate Diwali", she said.

Amita Mistry believes national holiday status should be considered
Amita Mistry: Wants days off for family to celebrate religion

Belgrave Road in Leicester is the centre for this year's Diwali festivities and over 50,000 people are expected. It is the biggest such gathering outside of India.

Leicester's business community and cultural life have benefited hugely from celebrations like these and there are calls for major religious festivals from all faiths to be recognised and marked with a public holiday.

Tariq Momood is director of the Centre for Ethnicity and Citizenship and he feels that non-Christian religions should be given more recognition.

"Some of the new non-Christian religions are more vigorous now than Christianity in many parts of the country", he said.

"I think a good recognition of this would be to include the holy days of other faiths beside those of Christians in the public holidays calendar", Mr Momood added.

Religious freedom

Employers currently use their discretion to let staff off for religious holidays but new human rights legislation will strengthen people's right to practice their religion freely.

Parosha Chandran
Parosha Chandran: challenges under human rights act

Parosha Chandran is a human rights barrister who says everyone is entitled to celebrate their religion.

"It's certainly arguable that if a person wanted to have one or two days off per year on the basis of being able to manifest their religious holiday, to be on holiday for that day, whether it's Eid, Diwali or Yon Kippur, then they should be entitled to under the human rights act", she said.

Despite Diwali being one of the UK's biggest multi-faith festivals, bank holidays are still linked to the Christian calendar.

The UK Government says it recognises its multi-faith communities and encourages good employment practice.

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