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News Code: 773


US: Muslim families pushing school holidays for Islamic holy days

Muslim students in Montgomery County are being urged to stay home on Tuesday, October 15 and instead celebrate Eid al-Adha, one of Islam's holiest days.

It's all part of a push to make Eid al-Adha, which marks the Hajj to Mecca, and Eid Al-Fitr, celebrating the end of Ramadan, full-fledged school holidays.

The argument is that public schools close around Christian and Jewish holidays like Christmas, Easter, but that is not the case for Islamic holy days. Muslims say it is religious inequality and it is not fair.

Zainab Chaudry is the Vice President of the Maryland Chapter of the Council on Islamic-American relations and a member of the Equality for Eid Coalition. She and other members believe it is time to add Islamic holy days to the school calendar and stop making Muslims choose between school and their faith.

"We feel like the rights of American Muslims are being violated,” she says.

Montgomery County Public Schools says it does not close for religious reasons, but will consider it if a holiday causes a significant amount of absenteeism.

Chaudry and others are calling on Muslims to stay home from school on Tuesday, the day Eid al-Adha falls on the calendar this year. They are also asking for supporters to sign a petition urging the change. The hope is that the mass absences and pressure will demonstrate the impact of the holiday.

"This is not an issue of the community seeking special rights,” says Chaudry. “They are basically just asking for equal rights."

Montgomery County school officials say students who stay home are excused and the school system does not give tests on that day.

According to the Equality for Eid Coalition, six other school districts across the United States close on one or both of the Eids. They are in Burlington, Vt., Cambridge, Mass., Dearborn, Mich., Paterson, N.J., Skokie, Ill., and Trenton, N.J.

The coalition is supported by groups representing other faiths and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.