Public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland won’t close for two major Muslim holy days because attendance records show the increase in absences among all students on those days is completely negligible.
The issue has been festering for several weeks now. On Tuesday, a group of Muslim families spoke at a meeting of the Montgomery County Board Of Education, reports CBS DC. They and other supporters of the calendar modification want to add Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr as official school holidays.
Eid al-Adha occurs in the fall and honors Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s command. As part of the holiday, Muslims who can afford it are expected to sacrifice their best domestic animal (cow, goat, camel, sheep, etc., depending on the region).
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and has no set date.
Muslim speakers at the meeting compared Eid al-Adha—the Feast of the Sacrifice—to Yom Kippur or Christmas—two of the holiest days in the other Abrahamic religions.
School board members said they approved a 2014-2015 calendar which doesn’t give students the day off for Eid al-Adha because public schools can only close for religious holidays if problems such as absenteeism would otherwise arise.
Another reason that students won’t be missing any school days next year for Eid al-Adha, by the way, is that it occurs on a weekend. (Eid al-Fitr occurs in the summer in 2014.)
As The Gazette notes, Montgomery County schools accommodate Muslim students already by prohibiting testing on Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, and by excusing Muslim student absences.
Some members of the Muslim population in Montgomery are not satisfied with this policy or the school board’s decision.
“An excused day off is not the solution,” said Amal Muhtaseb, a mother of three, according to CBS DC. “My children have to come back and make up tests and homework. They will miss valuable time of classroom instruction.”
Muhtaseb added that she wants her children “to be treated in the same way their Christian and Jewish classmates are.”
CBS DC says the Muslim population in Montgomery County is estimated to be around 12,000 people.
The total population of Montgomery County is about 1.005 million people.