For the first time in its history, the Detroit school district announced earlier this month it would be recognizing the Muslim holiday of `Eid Al-Fitr during its adoption of the 2019-20 school year calendar, Detroit Free Press reported.
“We Muslims had been obligated to miss school in order to commemorate our sacred holidays, even though the district includes a large population of Muslim students,” expressed Mohammad Muntakim, sophomore at Cass Technical High School and president of the school’s Muslim Student Association.
“That left us behind our classmates, and we were forced to catch up for doing nothing more than observing our religious holidays.”
Muslim students have been calling to recognize `Eid Al-Fitr, like other nearby districts, such as Dearborn Public Schools, the Crestwood School District, and Hamtramck Public Schools.
Muntakim was among the advocates for the new day off, hinting that the district already recognizes other religious holidays.
The day of observance was among the highlights of the new calendar, which also includes an early start to the school year, more teacher training days, a shorter mid-winter break and several days built in at the end of the academic year for snow days.
The Islamic Hijri Calendar is a lunar one, thus the observance of `Eid Al-Fitr revolves throughout the seasons. In the next school year calendar, it will coincide with May 25, 2020, which would already have been a day off for Memorial Day, and on May 26, 2020 there’s a proposed professional development day for teachers.
Of the Muslim `Eid holidays, only `Eid Al-Fitr falls on a school day during the 2019-20 academic year. The bigger festival `Eid Al-Adha, which comes at the last 12th Hijri month, is still not recognized by the school district.
“The board’s decision recognizes the diversity of our school communities and is a way of celebrating that diversity,” said Rima Meroueh, manager of advocacy and community engagement at the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, based in Dearborn.
“But the decision is also important on two other fronts. Muslim students already tend to take a couple of days off school to recognize the holiday. It decreases the likelihood that children and their parents have to choose between their deeply held beliefs and their education,” Meroueh said.
She further explained that the decision “is also important given Muslim students are increasingly hearing anti-Muslim sentiments. This sends a critical message to our Muslim-American children that they belong here, that they’re important.”
Detroit is the largest and most populous city in the American state of Michigan. The municipality of Detroit had a 2017 estimated population of 673,104, making it the 23rd-most populous city in the USA.
The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the 2nd-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area. According to the latest estimates of 2017, the Muslim population in Detroit made up 3% of the total population.