CAIRO – A small group of Muslim students from Great Falls in Virginia have filed a petition on a White House website calling for public schools to recognize Muslim holidays.
“I think there's been a push nationwide for the recognition of Muslim holidays in school systems. Primarily in school systems where there's a large number of Muslim students,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman with the Council on American Islamic Relations, told The Christian Post.
“This petition is just an expression of that ongoing dialogue and just seen I guess as one way to move the issue forward,” Hopper said, adding that he supported “the recognition of Muslim holidays in school systems” with “significant Muslim populations.”
The petition started when Sumayyah McTaggart, a confident homeschooled eighth grader, from Great Falls, VA along with her friend Iman Hazer of Dunn-Loring were assigned a class project while taking civics classes at Compass Homeschooling Enrichment in Oakton.
The assignment was to petition the government about an issue that they were passionate about, the three formed a petition on the White House website.
Inspired by the Montgomery County Equality4Eid campaign and concerned about attending class on `Eid day, the three friends decided to address the issue of recognizing `Eid day on the calendar.
“We knew each other from the masjid. I used to attend the masjid that Fatima currently attends. We all ended up in the same civic class and petitioned the government to recognize our holidays in public school,” McTaggart told the Muslim Link on Tuesday, January 14.
Posted on the White House's “We the People” site last month, as of Wednesday morning the petition has garnered over 34,000 signatories from across the United States.
“With the growing population of Muslims in the United States of America…we believe it is high time that Muslim holidays are recognized by schools throughout this nation,” reads the petition in part.
“Muslim school children and staff deserve the same benefits afforded to the followers of other faiths. We call on President Obama to support this petition and advance the inclusiveness of our great nation.”
Girls hope to collect the 100,000 signatures needed, before the January 16, 2013 deadline.
“This year `Eid Al-Adha was on the day of science class, and I did have to go to school on `Eid,” McTaggart told the Muslim Link.
“It was very upsetting, missing `Eid prayer. I love hearing the khutbah and was upset [I had to go to school],” she added.
Fatima Dandashi has also faced the same dilemma.
“We would hope that White House responds. We would all like to request Fairfax County to recognize `Eid as a public holiday. We would like them to take the day off,” Dandashi said.
“The White House petition is an effort for publicity, to show the Fairfax county board of education how many people support the idea,” McTaggart added.
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.
Cambridge Public Schools were one of the first districts in Massachusetts to recognize all religious holidays last year.
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.
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