[by Mariam Mirza, CAIR-MD Outreach Coordinator]
The American Muslim community has been advocating for over a decade to have the two annual Muslim holidays included on public school calendars. The two holidays, Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha, are a time of celebration for Muslim families. Eid-al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the fasting month. Eid-al-Adha marks the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. For both holidays, the celebrations begin with prayer services in the morning, and then spending the rest of the day with family and friends. In the next three years, Eid-al-Fitr will fall during the summer break, and Eid-al-Adha will fall on one school day during the school year. To have these holidays added to the calendar, only one day of instruction would need to be accommodated by the Board of Education.
The Equality for Eid Coalition was formed to have the Board of Education approve the addition of the Muslim holidays to the Montgomery County Public Schools calendar. The Muslim community of Montgomery County, which includes Muslim staff and students, are simply asking to be treated fairly and justly as their religious counterparts have been treated in the past. The Christian and Jewish holidays have been aligned with the school calendar to become a part of the winter and/or spring breaks (i.e Christmas, Easter, Passover, etc.). A growing number of Muslim students face the same decision every year: tend to their education or celebrate the holidays with their families. In the interests of fairness and equality, the school board must approve the inclusion of the Muslim holidays in the MCPS school calendar.
The Board of Education has relayed the criterion that needs to be met before they can make a decision to approve the Muslim holidays – that a significant (but unspecified) number of students must be absent to demonstrate that classroom instruction would be impacted in Montgomery County Public Schools. Although it is impossible to determine an exact number, it is estimated that up to 10% of the Montgomery County population practices the Islamic faith.
The Equality for Eid Coalition is encouraging friends of all faiths, staff, and students to stay home from school on Tuesday, October 15 to observe Eid-al-Adha. Councilmember George Leventhal, who is Jewish, has been a vocal advocate of our campaign, and he will be keeping his son home on Eid-al-Adha. The supporters of the E4E coalition continue to grow as government officials and organizations of all faiths recognize and acknowledge our cause. Muslims have been advocating for this initiative for over a decade. Our hope is that our efforts will gain positive resolution in the near future. We urge that friends of all faiths support equality and fair treatment for all students of Montgomery County regardless of faith, and to sign the petition found online at www.equality4eid.com.