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News Code: 848


Maryland Muslims Denied `Eid Holidays

Muslim students in Montgomery County in the US eastern state of Maryland have lost their dreams of celebrating their feasts freely, after the county adopted a calendar for next school year that excluded Islamic holidays.

“What do we say to Muslim parents who have to explain to their children the intricacies of how this decision is made,” asked Michael Durso, members of the Montgomery County Board, the Washington Post reported on Sunday, November 17.

“When in the eyes of those families they’re not being dealt with in the same fashion as others?”

The issue of Muslim holidays has been debated for months in Montgomery’s board of education.

The county, which offers days off in Christian and Jewish holidays, has denied Muslims a similar right.

Amal Muhtaseb, a Montgomery mother of three, said that she wanted her children to be treated “the same way their Christian and Jewish classmates are.”

Khaled Abuhatab, a parent of Montgomery student, said that his seven-year-old son was absent in `Eid al-Adha but the next day he had complained of a 'doubled' homework because he was absent during Muslim holiday.

Officials say they cannot simply recognize a religious holiday with a day off.

The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.

Muslims celebrate two feasts each year.

`Eid Al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice”, is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations, together with `Eid Al-Fitr.

Adopting the calendar without Islamic holidays, school officials said that high rates of absence are considered a potential basis for adding a holiday to the school calendar.

“It has been suggested that we’re asking for something different from the Muslim community that we did not do for the Jewish community,” said Philip Kauffman, the board’s vice president.

“Clearly we did make the decision based on statistics back in 1973.”

Citing the district figures the school said that, only 5.6% and 5 % of teachers were absent on `Eid-Al Adha.

Montgomery's absence average falls at 3.2% of students and 4.2% of teachers in normal days.

Saqib Ali, a former state lawmaker and co-chair of the Equality for Eid Coalition, expressed his pleasure after two board members, Durso and student member Justin Ki, showed support by voting against the county’s school calendar.

“There is definitely some progress since last year,” Ali said.

Although member didn't hold vote on Muslims holiday for next year's calendar, during the school board meeting, they confirmed that they are mulling the issue.

Board members also asked the school stuff to offer rules and mechanism for applying the Muslim holidays.