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Maryland School District Removes Religious Holiday Names from Academic Calendar

Muslims protest for equal recognition of Eid in Montgomery County, Maryland schools. (NBC Washington screen grab)

Muslims protest for equal recognition of Eid in Montgomery County, Maryland schools. (NBC Washington screen grab)

Maryland’s largest school district voted on Tuesday to strip the names of religious holidays from next year’s academic calendar after Muslims requested equal recognition with Christians and Jews.

NBC Washington reports the Montgomery County Board of Education voted 7-1 to remove mention of Christian holidays, including Christmas and Easter, and Jewish holidays, including Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, after Muslim leaders in the community requested equal recognition be granted to their holy day of Eid al-Adha.

Students will still have off from school on the Christian and Jewish holidays. School will presumably remain open during future Eid holidays, although due to a coincidence of the lunar calendar, the holiday will not conflict with school for several years.

Superintendent Joshua Starr recommended removing references to Christian and Jewish holiday names in next year’s academic calendar to demonstrate that school closures on those dates are a bid to combat absentee rates and not to observe any religious holidays.

Montgomery County schools have closed for Jewish holidays since the 1970s due to the area’s significant Jewish population — there are more than 30,000 Jews residing there.

“High absenteeism is the main reason” schools are closed on Jewish holidays, Montgomery County school board member Dana Tofig told NBC Washington.

“The absentee rate on the Eid holidays, when they’ve fallen on a school day, haven’t been considerably higher or lower than it is on any other given day,” Tofig added.

Removing holiday names from the calendar is “the most equitable option,” board member Rebecca Smondrowski told the Montgomery County Gazette.

But many Muslims opposed the move.

“It seems like the school administration is working very, very hard to find excuses and rationalizations and false reasons to deny the Muslim community equality,” Saqib Ali, head of the Equality for Eid Coalition, told the Gazette.

“The Eid is just the same exact as Christmas day or Easter day or Yom Kippur,” Muslim parent Samira Hussein told NBC Washington. “The children want to home with their families. This is a family holiday that God designated and gave us the time to celebrate and be joyous.”

County Executive Ike Leggett weighed in on the issue on Monday, telling NBC Washington, “I would simply add Eid to the existing holidays they already have without substituting any other holidays.”

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