Supported by a member of the Montgomery County Council, a coalition of Maryland Muslim groups is petitioning to close schools on two Islamic holidays.
School officials in Montgomery County have been mulling over the issue since last year. The Board of Education there took up the possible closings in June, but decided against shuttering schools to honor the holidays Eid al-Adha, which falls on Oct. 15 this year, and Eid al-Fitr, though the latter holiday fell during summer break as it will will for the next three years.
Muslim holidays are based on the Islamic lunar calendar.
“Thousands of our neighbors fill mosques throughout the county for religious observance and deserve the same recognition of their most sacred holidays that other faiths enjoy,” county council member George Leventhal wrote to the school board earlier this year, supporting the closings.
The school distruct closes on Christmas as well as on the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
“They’ve drawn the line at Christians and Jews, and that’s exclusionary,” Leventhal told a local news outlet, explaining his support of the effort, which is also supported by Jews United for Justice, a Washington D.C.-area activist group.
When the school board rejected the proposal to close on the two Muslim holidays, it said that there weren’t enough Muslim students to justify the closings. Decisions to close schools are based on attendance records, the board said.
But according to coalition leader Saqib Ali (pictured), the school did not use attendance statistics in deciding to lose on Christian and Jewish holidays.
“If we’re only going to use [the attendance studies] for certain communities, that’s not equitable,” Ali said.
He added that there were no stats on the number of Muslim students in county schools. “But we know there’s a significant number and it seems to be growing,” Ali said.
A few school districts in the U.S., such as Cambridge, Mass., Burlington, Vt., Dearborn, Mich., and Trenton, N.J., already close on Muslim holidays. Montgomery County’s board will take up the issue again in the fall of 2014.