Muslim School Holidays?

Christa - posted on 07/01/2010 ( 32 moms have responded )

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http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/07/01...

By Khalid Latif, Special to CNN

I was recently eating dinner at a restaurant with a friend near Times Square when it became time for me to pray. Muslims pray five times a day and this particular prayer, called Maghrib, is performed at sunset.

Having lived in New York City for decades, I’ve become comfortable praying pretty much anywhere. It also doesn’t hurt that there are stranger things happening on the streets here than a young guy bowing and kneeling for a few minutes.

After I started to pray, a tour bus parked in front of me and a large group of people proceeded to spill out.

While I continued, a woman from the group came closer to where I was praying. She removed a scarf from her neck, placed it on the ground so that I would be praying on something clean, then walked away before I finished.

A truly amazing woman whose name I don’t even know. But if I had not felt comfortable being myself and praying on the street, I would never have had the opportunity to learn from her.


A child at a recent rally for Muslim holidays to be observed by New York city schools.
It’s not easy fitting in. Whether you’re 15 years old or 55, most of us have to compartmentalize our identity in order to feel accepted. We let go of things that we hold dear in hopes that we can just belong and in doing so we assume the worst of the people around us. We think that they wouldn’t be able to understand and accept us for who we are.

A year ago this week, more than 80 faith-based, civil rights, community and labor organizations came together under the title Coalition for Muslim School Holidays. Our purpose was to encourage New York City to give permanent recognition to its Muslim community by adding two holidays observed by Muslims to the public school calendar: Eid ul-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, the sacred month of fasting and Eid Ul-Adha, which celebrates the end of the Hajj, the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca.

New York’s City Council convened to vote on the issue and almost unanimously passed resolution 1281, calling for the Department of Education to recognize the holidays. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that the holidays won’t be added to the public school calendar

Yesterday, the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays held a late morning rally on the steps of New York’s City Hall. Hundreds of people attended and even more stood at the gates waiting to get in—a 300 person limit had been placed on the gathering—as politicians, city officials, interfaith leaders and activists spoke from the steps telling Mayor Bloomberg why he should change his mind.

The expectation that people have of Muslims these days is pretty confusing. On one hand, Muslims are explicitly told they need to integrate Islam more effectively into mainstream society. On the other hand, Muslims are implicitly shown that can’t really happen. The construction of our mosques is protested, our communities are profiled, and our children have to go to school on their holidays.

“One in every eight school kids in the City of New York observes the Muslim faith,” New York City Comptroller John Liu said in a statement issued yesterday by the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays. “Yet these students are forced to choose between their education and their faith, and it’s a situation that needs to be rectified.”

In addition all the presidents of New York’s five boroughs have sent letters of support to our coalition, while Public Advocate Bill de Blasio support the City Council resolution recognizing Muslim holidays.

“About 12 percent of New York City students are Muslim,” says de Blasio, “and consequently thousands of students miss exams and important activities because they are scheduled on Muslim holidays. The Department of Education should treat these students equally and include the two main Islamic holidays in the school calendar, just as it does with other major religions.”

It was a beautiful thing to stand amongst a diverse group of people yesterday in support of a cause that really goes beyond a holiday. I’m looking forward to the day that it’s celebration—not contention—that brings us together. Who knows? Maybe it’ll even be on Eid.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Khalid Latif. Author photo courtesy Bryan Derballa.


I think this is ridiculous. There are plenty of other religious holidays that are not observed in schools and we haven't been able to call Christmas Break "Christmas" for years, so why do they suddenly want special treatment? Thoughts??

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~Jennifer - posted on 07/02/2010

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Ok, seriously - regardless of who has off when...at least admit that the vacation schedules have always rotated around x-mas and easter.



It's not that hard to figure out.



(and even if thanksgiving isn't considered a christian holiday.....who exactly are we thanking?)



Edit : I wasn't trying to be rude - I just haven't had my coffee yet.

Johnny - posted on 07/01/2010

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When I was in school, there was what was called the diversity calendar that was issued at the beginning of every school year. It listed all of the religious holidays that were practiced by the top 15 religions in our school district. If you were of that religion, your absence was excused for those days if you chose and if there was a test or exam scheduled, it would be deferred (for that student only, not the entire school). Now, the two major Christian holidays (Christmas & Easter) were always off, but things like Hanukkah & Rosh Hashana did not always fall during scheduled Winter or Spring breaks. So this was a way for all students to take off their special days. There was not "proof" required. But there was never any talk of it being abused. I think the biggest day that kids were missing from school was usually Diwali. Since I was raised by non-religious parents, I didn't get any extra days off. I suppose that could bother me, but I just see it as a form of diversity. I would personally prefer that school holidays were not scheduled around any specific religious events, but instead civic holidays that we all share. Those with faith would then be able to take off specific days for their own arcane rituals.

~Jennifer - posted on 07/01/2010

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When the say 'added to the calendar" - they mean only that any student of that faith will not be marked as 'absent' for the day, rather, they will be 'excused' on religious grounds.

They're not asking for the entire school to have a 'day off'. They're simply asking that the DOE recognize the day as a religious holiday.



It's the same as when a Jewish student receives an 'excused' absence on days like Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashana.

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Christa - posted on 07/01/2010

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Never mind I figured in out. lol! I just googled Jefferson County Schools apparently there are more then one in this country. :-P

Tanya - posted on 07/01/2010

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If spring break happens at the same time as easter every year then can't you see where these people might be coming from. DO you really believe that the school board hasn't taken when easters is into consideration?

Christa - posted on 07/01/2010

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Again for spring break, not specifically for Easter. . Anyway. . .

LaCi, the ville?

Christa - posted on 07/01/2010

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I have never been off on Good Friday and Thanksgiving isn't a religious holiday. And it looks like Easter happens to fall on spring break for this particular school this year, they are not taking it off for Easter. And I already said I don't have a problem with them excluding the absences. You are the one that said close the school down for their holidays to be equal, so maybe you should do some research before making your statements.

Tanya - posted on 07/01/2010

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Yes but you can take off for christian and jewish holy day with out it counting against you.

Easter Sunday falls on April 24, 2011
School are out April 19th- April 25 so that does include good friday and even the monday after easter.
They are also closed for christmas and thanksgiving
http://www.horrycountyschools.net/UserFi...

Maybe you should do some research before making statements.

Sara - posted on 07/01/2010

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I think that no religious holidays should be observed by public schools, period.

Christa - posted on 07/01/2010

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Yeah that's my point, it got changed back when I was still in school. Plus it's the mid point to the school year it just makes sense to have a break there. Plus most Americans celebrate Christmas and many are not religious at all.

LaCi - posted on 07/01/2010

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Our winter break is actually called the "holiday break" so it is based on holidays. We changed it from christmas to holiday to seem less biased.

Christa - posted on 07/01/2010

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Equality, Tanya? WTH are you talking about? We don't shut down the schools for any religious holidays. Yes they are closed for Christmas/Hanukah, but those are just winter breaks that happen to be at the same time as those holidays. We don't get good Friday off, no Jewish holidays off, etc.

Julie - posted on 07/01/2010

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"Added to the calendar" makes perfect sense to me. No penalties if they call off, and excellent idea. I think public schools really have to cater a little to the surrounding community. For example, the schools around me happen to have a "break" on the opening day of hunting season. Did all the hunters petition the school to have it done? No, I think they were tired of 50% or higher absenteeism on that day in THIS community.

It just makes sense to mark the calender appropriate to the surrounding PUBLIC. While I am in NY STATE, those religious days off would not work here b/c I can count on one hand the number of Muslims I have seen since I moved here 6 years ago.

What if "winter break" was the last week of January and the first week of February in public schools? Say what you want, but it IS still (at least partially) religious.

Tanya - posted on 07/01/2010

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I am all for it. Even if they do shut down the whole school.
Equality and what not.

Here you can only miss 5 days after that you have to go to make up school. They don't actually teach anything in make up school you just have to sit there.

LaCi - posted on 07/01/2010

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Yeah, we cut class a lot, so they made big scary rules

None of which we cared about though :D and none of which we were actually punished for beyond in school suspension.

~Jennifer - posted on 07/01/2010

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Jenny - in (the places I'm aware of in) the US, you can actually be forced to repeat a grade level for too many 'unexcused' absences.

Jenny - posted on 07/01/2010

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Oh ok, we don't have anything like that here. If you miss lots of school the principal will follow up to make sure everything's ok but there's no set rules about it.

LaCi - posted on 07/01/2010

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there are strict limits on the amount of unexcused absences a student can acquire without penalty, at least in my area. So I would imagine, given the number of islamic holidays that could potentially be missed, it could have penalties if unexcused. Also, some schools will only allow makeup exams and such for excused absences.

If they are just being excused on the days they miss then It's really great, in my opinion.

Christa - posted on 07/01/2010

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If that's correct Jenn, then I don't have a problem with it. I thought they wanted the whole school shut down in observance of their holidays. :-)

Jenny - posted on 07/01/2010

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Are they not keeping them home anyways during those holidays? I would if it was an important religious observance to my family. What is the difference between being marked as absent or excused? Does it affect the student in any way?

Jenny - posted on 07/01/2010

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If you want religious holidays observed do it in private school. Public schools must remain secular.



I am also for year round school. Two week break in the Summer, one week in the Spring and one week in the Winter with a three day weekend (prefereably a paid stat for me too ha ha) in every month would be my ideal.

ME - posted on 07/01/2010

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What Laci said...or, I would also be alright if we didn't observe any religious holidays in public schools. Children shouldn't be penalized for missing a day or two of school if their family IS religious, and observes the holiday, but many people do not. How would year round school work? Four two week breaks?

LaCi - posted on 07/01/2010

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I can't say I have a problem with it really. I'm also in favor of having year round school which would allow great flexibility with religious holidays. Most Islamic holidays fall very close to, if not directly on certain Jewish holidays. If we did have year round school, I'm sure there's a way we could work around the major religious holidays. The calendars vary only slightly, so they're fairly consistent in being within a day or two of each other.

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