BALTIMORE – Muslims in Maryland’s largest city of Baltimore have been campaigning to get their holy days recognized in school holidays, a few months after their request in Montgomery County in the eastern state was rejected.
“I’m not asking for much, just asking for maybe equality,” Farah Ibrahim, one of the Muslims who attended Baltimore County Public Schools’ policy review committee hearing Monday, told ABC 2 on Tuesday, March 17.
Ibrahim’s demand was similar to the one made several times over the past decade by Muslim leaders in Baltimore.
For Muslim students, they had been facing a bitter choice between missing school or missing their two holidays.
The right was granted to Christians and Jews who both get holidays off.
“I hear from my community members and the children that they have felt very out rightly discriminated,” Muhammad Jameel from the Islamic Society of Baltimore said.
Monday’s meeting for the Board’s Policy Committee discussed the issue which has been on its agenda for months.
Yet, it was the first meeting to allow public hearing, taking testimonies from the folks who wanted to share their thoughts and concerns.
The panel will take the testimony, along with their research, and make recommendations about the school calendar to the County Board of Education.
“I believe our committee is comprised of good listeners and we will make what I am hopeful will be meaningful recommendations,” said Policy Review Committee Chair Romaine Williams.
Ruling out other public hearings on the issue, it’s not clear when the committee will make their calendar recommendations to the Board.
Officials believe such amendment would not be possible before 2016-2017 school year.
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.
Elsewhere across the United States, home to a Muslim minority between 6-8 million, recognizing Muslim religious holidays is gaining ground.
In Boston, leading schools Cambridge Public School District issued a decision in 2010 to recognize `Eid Al-Fitr and `Eid Al-Adha, which marks the end of hajj.
Several cities in New Jersey close schools on Muslim holidays.
Dearborn, Michigan, where nearly half of the 18,000 students are Muslims, is believed to be the first city to close school on Muslim festivals.
In September 2010, public schools in Burlington city, Vermont, also closed on `Eid al-Fitr for the first time.