Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kuwait Changes to Friday-Saturday Weekend

The Kuwaiti government recently announced that it will change the official weekend from the current Thursday-Friday to Friday-Saturday starting Sept 1 of this year. Friday is the day of worship to Muslims equivalent to Sunday for Christians. In Egypt and the Levantine countries (Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan), the weekend has long been on Friday and Saturday. However, the Persian Gulf countries followed a Thursday-Friday weekend. Yet, as the economies of these countries grow and businesses become more interrelated with their trading partners in Europe and the United States, the fact that the Thursday-Friday weekend meant there were only three shared business days between East and West became a hindrance to doing business. Thus, it is all the more economically feasible solution to institute a Friday-Saturday weekend and private business were the first to follow suit. With time however, the lack of a unified weekend became disruptive as families may have one spouse working for the government with a Thursday-Friday weekend and another spouse in private business with a Friday-Saturday weekend.

Hence, it was only a matter of time before a Friday-Saturday weekend was instituted in the public sector to unify it with the private sector. Yet, the move was not without its societal grumblings, with some Islamists yelping against the change since it was an imitation of the West and pointing out that Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath day. The point about imitating the West refers to a Hadith or saying by the Prophet Muhammad which says: “He who imitates a people is one of them.” And as in the Islamist view, Christians are not on the right path whereas Muslims are, Muslims should not imitate Christians. However, this is simply another example of poor interpretation as these sayings are quoted out of context, thereby losing the general meaning or purpose of the saying. For there is another Hadith that states: “Seek after knowledge, even unto China.” And during the time of the Prophet (600 AD) the Chinese had a lower rank as idol worshippers than Christians who were at least “People of the Book.” Thus, one can see the difficulty of Hadith quoting without a proper understanding of context or principle.

Nevertheless, the argument against a Friday-Saturday weekend because Saturday is a Jewish holiday sheds light on the rather absurd fear, hatred, and misunderstanding of Jews in Islamic, especially Arabic, societies. Teachers, especially those of religion, tend to preach the most irrational conspiracy theories about Jews that inculcate a generally poor view of Jews as a people from childhood.

Be that as it may, Persian Gulf countries have recently changed to Friday-Saturday weekends. Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE have already done so, with the UAE changing in fall of 2006. The only countries left on the Thursday-Friday schedule are Saudi Arabia and Oman. Saudi is reported as currently studying the issue of a change. Below is an article from Kuwait Times highlighting the weekend switch in Kuwait.

Title: Public reaction to Friday-Saturday weekend switch
Published Date: May 28, 2007
By Ahmad Al-Khaled, Staff Writer, Kuwait Times

KUWAIT: Kuwait's Cabinet yesterday issued an administrative decision to officially change the state's weekends from Thursday and Friday to Friday and Saturday. "I think the change will help in the development of Kuwait in international businesses, as by changing the second day off to Saturday we will only lose one business day with our international counterparts." said Jassem Ali, a banking sector employee who went on to add, "we in the banking sector have already been on such a schedule for years -- it only makes sense to initiate the change in the rest of the state as well."

The Gulf States of Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have already switched to a Friday-Saturday weekend while Saudi Arabia has stated it is currently studying the issue. While there had been a parliamentarian Islamist outcry in previous discussions of such a change, the parliament's hands are tied in what is a Cabinet administrative decision. Should MPs seek to change the decision they may enact a law of their own - declaring weekends to be on Thursdays and Fridays but with 16 voting Cabinet members favoring the new weekend and perhaps 16 or 17 Islamist MPs against the change, Islamist MPs do not have the numbers to support any counterattack on the new weekend.

Local Islamic NGO the Thawabet Al-Ummah Convention came out vocally against the move saying the change would align Muslims with the Saturday Jewish holy day of worship. "I am no fanatic, but I prefer to keep our weekends the way they have always been and not change our lives to mesh with the West," said Ibrahim Muhamed. "Why do we as a state have to change ourselves for the sake of the West," said Khaled Jassem. But many in the financial world believe the move will allow Kuwait to procure more businesses with the international world. "With this change we will be on the same page as the western world with whom we do business and of course we would never give away our Friday for business. It is only Thursday we are trading for Saturday - those two days mean nothing to us Muslims...it is only Friday that we should cherish - and we do," said Hussein Muhamed.

"It seems silly to fuss over Thursday versus Saturday when we should be thinking in terms of Kuwait's future," said Ghadha Ahmad. The change, which will be initiated on September 1, 2007, coincides with the first day of school in many areas. "As a mother who works in a bank, I will be so happy to see my children on weekends. With this school year their weekends were Thursday and Friday and mine on Saturday so we had only one day together as a family," said Layla Faisal.

"I think the start date for the change is perfect in that nobody's summer holidays will be affected and the school year will only have just begun so we can all get used to the new day offs together," said Daoud Yusef. "As an oil sector employee, I only spend time with my wife and children on Fridays because they have Thursday and Friday weekends - I am 100 percent in favor of the change to bring my family together," said Waleed Muhamed. Omar Abdulrahman took a different view of the forthcoming change saying, "I used to dread Fridays because I was due back at work on Saturdays but now Friday will hold the place it should, as a day for praying...I can learn to hate Saturdays."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lebanon has a 50% Christian population. The President is also Christian.

In Lebanon, unlike all the mentioned countries, the week-end remains on Saturday and Sunday just like all other western countries.