Russia Shifts New School Year for `Eid Al-Adha

MOSCOW – Many Russian schools are considering the shift of the beginning of the new school year, which coincides this year with the Muslim `Eid Al-Adha holiday.

Officially known as Day of Knowledge, the first day of the Russian new school year falls on September 1, the same day world Muslims are going to celebrate the first day of `Eid Al-Adha.

During the Muslim feast, tens of thousands of worshipers often come to the mosque to celebrate the Islamic holiday, with many roads in the surrounding area being closed and cordoned off to make way for large crowds of Muslim worshipers.

To avoid overcrowding, between Muslim worshippers and students, Moscow’s education department suggested postponing the beginning of school year celebrations, a spokeswoman for the Council of Muftis of Russia, Gulnur Gazieva, told RBC on Thursday.

The head of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Albir Kurganov, said a decision to shift the start of school year to September 4, which will be Monday, has been made in Moscow and other Russian cities, RIA Novosti reported on Thursday.

The news agency also quoted municipal officials of the city of Ufa as saying that “the majority of citizens” have appealed to the authorities, asking them to postpone the start of the school year coinciding with the Muslim holiday.

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

It begins with special prayers to mark the day, Muslims then offer unhiyah, a ritual that commemorates the great act of sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma`eel were willing to make for the sake of Allah.

Festivities and merriment then start with visits to friends and relatives.

Traditionally, everyone wears new clothes for `Eid, and the children look forward to gifts and the traditional `ediya (cash).

`Eid Al-Adha marks the end of annual hajj.

The Russian Federation is home to some 23 million Muslims in the north of the Caucasus and southern republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.

Islam is Russia’s second-largest religion representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million predominantly Orthodox population.