NEW YORK – A school district in New York has crushed American Muslim students’ dream of celebrating normal holidays after it refused to add two Muslim holidays to its annual calendar.
“I think it’s always concerning when school boards fail to recognize the diversities of the communities they serve, and it’s especially concerning when it comes in the aftermath of blatant discrimination,” Albert Fox Cahn, legal director for the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told News Day.
In 2017, the administrators of Hewlett-Woodmere district requested a closure on the Muslim holidays of `Eid Al-Fitr and `Eid Al-Adha during the 2018-19 school year.
Shahnaz Mallik, a Woodmere Muslim grandmother of a 4th-grade girl and a boy who is entering prekindergarten in the fall, formed a petition in February 2017 that favored adding the holidays.
“It’s a burden on the kids. They are home to celebrate and they have on the back of their minds they have to make up all the work,” Mallik expressed.
“Missing a day for a high school student who has several AP classes can be of great detriment to the student, even if [the] absence is excused for religious observance.”
The district responded saying, “The board exercised its discretion and determined that insufficient secular purpose would be achieved by closure on these days.”
During their following Monday meeting, the school district’s officials made derogatory comments about Islam, causing sharp rebukes from the Muslim community.
CAIR-NY released a news feed saying it “condemned the alleged harassment of Muslim community members and students” attending the meetings.
Cahn said he was “disheartened by the rhetoric at school board meetings this month.”
In another response to Monday’s statement, the district said: “the board and administration join in the condemnation of the inappropriate and hurtful comments… that were not intended to denigrate the religious beliefs of any of our students or residents.”
“We recognize, accommodate, and support every Hewlett-Woodmere student’s absolute right to absent themselves from school on religious holidays,” the statement continued.
A growing number of American school districts have begun to recognize the two Muslim holidays.
In 2018, `Eid Al-Fitr takes place on the evening of June 14, coming at the end of the school year. In addition, `Eid Al-Adha, will start on the evening of August 20 and lasts until the next night; it will fall outside the regular school year.
Eqbal Rasheed, a board member of the Islamic Center of Five Towns, said, “There’s a whole lot of families affected by this that I know.”
He added, “We’re still hopeful. It’s just the beginning, so we’ll keep trying.”