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In push for Muslim school holiday, some Montgomery students will stay home

Montgomery-County-EidBy Donna St. George, Washington Post

On other holidays, the choice has been difficult: Education or faith? But this year, with the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha on Tuesday, the Shraim family decided against school. Their teenagers might fall behind in their classes. They might feel torn. But they will stay home to celebrate.

The Germantown family is joining others across Montgomery County in an effort to make the Islamic holy day into a full-fledged school holiday. They point out that school is closed for Christmas, Good Friday and Easter. It also is closed for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

They ask why a holiday wouldn't similarly be given for Eid al-Adha, one of two major Muslim holidays, in a county with a growing Islamic community. There are no county or census figures on the Muslim population, but community leaders say that Muslims number at least in the "tens of thousands." Montgomery's population is nearly 1 million.

"It's like we don't feel equal to other people who get their holidays off," says Hannah Shraim, 14, a sophomore at Northwest High School in Germantown.

School officials say they give excused absences to students who miss classes on religious holidays and that they can't legally close schools for religious reasons. But the issue is gaining attention as Muslim leaders step up a call for equity and encourage Muslims and non-Muslims to keep children home Tuesday.

In recent weeks, Muslim leaders have started a petition drive, called a news conference and won the backing of a string of elected leaders and religious groups including a Lutheran church and a Jewish organization. ...

Among elected officials supporting the group's effort is County Council member George L. Leventhal (D-At Large), who is Jewish and said he intends to keep his son home that day. "I think it's the right thing to do," he said.

Montgomery school officials say that, legally, granting a day off requires a secular rationale, such as an impact on instruction because of a high rate of absenteeism. Last year, the school board asked staff to examine attendance patterns on the Muslim holiday. (Read more)

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