Valley Muslims demand equality in school holidays

Around 10 million Muslims in the U.S., Muslims still suffer widespread misconception and Islam phobia and are still struggling for more representation in the society.

Valley Muslims demand equality in school holidays

They're always misunderstood and usually regarded foreign, especially at schools, where Islamic holidays are usually overlooked. Muslims have long been trying to persuade authorities that Islamic holidays should be recognized and accommodated exactly as Christmas and Hanukah.

Most calendars have various Christian, Jewish, and other holidays mentioned, but Islamic holidays are never stated.

Kulsum Soonasra, one of perhaps 50 Muslims at Parkland High School, is facing the same problem.

''We're a huge religion,'' the 17-year-old junior from Upper Macungie said, adding that Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, is as important to Muslims as Christmas is to Christians.

Soonasra, like many Muslim students, wants schools to be closed for Eid as they are closed for Christmas.

''It's a big hot button issue, for sure,'' said Elinor Pierce, a senior researcher with Harvard University's Pluralism Project, which studies religious diversity in America.

''This is something people are negotiating all over the country.''

And it isn't just Muslims. Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Baha'is, all seek various levels of recognition, Pierce added.

Lehigh Valley houses two Sunni mosques — the Muslim Association of the Lehigh Valley in Whitehall and the Islamic Education Center in Allentown. There's also the Al-Ahad Islamic Center in South Whitehall Township, a Shia mosque.

The area's Sunni Muslims requested from Parkland to also recognise Eid ul Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Zul-Hijja.

''We're asking for equality, not for privileges that are not given to others,'' said Mohamed Bugaighis, a retired mathematics professor and trustee of the Muslim Association.

The Muslim Association said it had already submitted a formal request to the school board last month and plans and if its demands weren't met, its members will approach other Valley districts.

''We're confident that Parkland School District as well as all the school districts will give the request a fair discussion and serious consideration,'' said Ismail Kashkoush, an engineer who helps running the campaign.

''The Muslim community has grown substantially in its numbers over the years. It's a community need.''

In its statement, Parkland Superintendent Louise Donahue stated the district will study the Eid request next month during school calendar preparation, viewing it ''in light of attendance history and in conjunction with the planning that is taking place on a common calendar with all of the public school districts in Lehigh County as well as the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit and the Lehigh Career and Technical Institute. We work cooperatively every year with the other school districts to keep class disruptions to a minimum.''

It's noteworthy that Hillsborough County, Fla. decided in 2001 to accommodate Jewish holidays, but when Muslims decided later to submit a request for the recognition of Eid al-Fitr, the board announced eliminating every religious holiday except for Christmas.

''You need to respond to the local population and what parents are asking for,'' Pierce said. ''And one of the healthy parts of this is that we're encouraging participation of religious minority groups.''

To avoid penalizing students for religious observance, school calendars should be prepared as not to conflict with Islamic holidays. A sincere attempt should be made to avoid scheduling graduation, assemblies, tests, and other special school and student events on Islamic holidays. If conflicts occur, teachers and administrators should exercise sensitivity and flexibility in resolving them. A student should not suffer adverse or hurtful consequences from an excused absence for Islamic holiday observance and should be allowed a reasonable opportunity to make up the schoolwork missed due to the absence. Consequences to school records should not be forced upon students who are absent for Islamic holidays. Students should not feel pressured to choose between school attendance and religious observance.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16