All religious holidays are being banned from calendars by the Maryland school board. The board voted to remove all references to eliminate the mention of any Islamic holidays. It has infuriated the Muslim community in the area, which has repeatedly asked for one of the Islamic holy days to be recognized as others are.
Only one person voted against the removal of all religious holidays from the calendar. The change will start from the 2015-2016 term, which would have noted the Jewish and Christian celebrations. It will impact all religious groups, but most importantly the already frustrated Muslims. All the Muslim leaders wanted in their campaign was to have Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, to be recognized by the schools in the area.
Equality for Eid Coalition co-chair, Zainab Chaudry, could not help but note how it was discriminating against the Islamic faith. The school board would rather remove Christian and Jewish holiday references over adding one Islamic one. The community in Montgomery County believed that recognizing the one date would show a step towards faith equality, especially considering Yom Kippur, the Jewish celebration, overlaps with Eid al-Adha in some cases.
Not only is the school board no closer to equality, but it has alienated other religious communities, according to former Maryland state delegate Saqib Ali. Ali also co-chairs the Equality for Eid Coalition with Chaudry. It is viewed as a drastic step, and the board has failed to give the public enough notification.
There will be some in favor of the school board banning all religious holidays. They are viewed as a symbolic addition to the calendar, rather than practical. Due to the separation of state and church laws, Montgomery County is not allowed to observe the celebrations. However, the schools do close around some of the dates, including Easter, Christmas and some Jewish dates. This is viewed as a necessity since the staff and student turnout would be low otherwise.
As a way to encourage the Islamic celebrations to count, the community keeps children home during the main two holidays. Non-Muslims in favor of this have also kept their own children off school to make a point. Jewish practitioner, George L. Leventhal, is one County Council member who has chosen to stand by the Muslims in this protest.
The vote was never supposed to be an attack on one religion. However, the timing is poor. It comes at a time that not only are the local Muslims fighting for equality, but there are many anti-Muslim groups around the United States. It is viewed by many as another anti-Muslim attack.
Despite the vote, the schools will still close around Jewish and Christian celebrations. The staff and student turnout will still be considered too low to justify opening the school. When discussing time off during the Muslim holidays, the board deemed that the turnout was not low enough to justify closing. Protestors packed the meeting and outside to fight for equality. However, the Maryland school board decided that all religious holidays would be banned from the school calendars instead of adding just one date.
By Alexandria Ingham
Photo by Dalibor Tomic