Religion

Number of Absences on Muslim Holiday Not High Enough, District Officials Say

| by Courtney Nunes

School district officials in Montgomery County, Md., reported that the rate of student absences was slightly higher on the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha — but not high enough.

According to The Washington Post, if a holiday sees an exceptionally high absentee rate, it has the potential to be added to the official school calendar. Eid al-Adha fell on Oct. 15 this year, and a number of Muslim families planned to stay home in an effort to make the Islamic holiday a school holiday.

However, recent reports indicate that the number of absences on Oct. 15 was only slightly higher than the average Tuesday.

Only 5.6 percent of students and 5 percent of teachers were absent on the holiday, reports the Post. On the previous Tuesday, a normal school day, 3.2 percent of students and 4.2 percent of teachers were absent.

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“There is a slight increase that day, but it’s not out of the normal range of what we would see on a Tuesday,” Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig told the Post.

According to NBC News, students who were absent for Eid al-Adha had to take an excused absence to celebrate the holiday.

“I think it’s fair if we get a day off of school even if we have to make up all the work,” eighth grader Samar Alashi said. “I still think it’s worth it.”

However, some parents argued that Muslim students should be given the day off as a full-fledged school holiday.

“I have three children who have been to Montgomery County Public schools and 15 grandchildren so I don’t want to wait until another generation to come,” Mimi Hassanein, of Coalition for Eid Holiday, told NBC News. “We’ve been trying to work on this to close the school but we were told that we don’t have enough numbers.”

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett agreed that schools should observe the holiday.

“I think we should have a holiday for Muslims,” said Leggett. “When you look at this community, the large number of parents forced to decide whether to send their children to school or observe the holiday, I think it’s long overdue.”

Fifth-grader Rama Alashi agreed.

“For religion others get a day off,” Alashi said. “I think it would be good to have a day to enjoy with our family.”

Although a number of Jewish holidays have been added to Montgomery school calendars, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr argued that these holidays saw a significantly higher rate of absenteeism.

Starr added that a review of absentee figures on Muslim holidays has not shown absences “exceptionally higher than absences on other school days.”

Sources: The Washington Post (2), NBC News