(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/20/15) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today expressed concern about a recent vote by the Howard County Public School System's Board of Education's to modify the 2015-16 academic calendar in response to concerns from the Muslim community.
The board voted 5-3 to stop listing religious holidays on days that fall on the school calendar. Instead, the holidays will be listed in a box on the side of the calendar. This decision was made after the Equality for Eid Coalition responded to concerns from local parents that Muslim students were being treated unequally and unfairly because the school system observed school closings for Christian and Jewish holidays, but not for the Muslim holidays of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
SEE: Howard School Board Votes to Alter Listings of Religious Holidays (Baltimore Sun)
The coalition had requested that the board move to grant equal billing to the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha - both of which are projected to occur on September 23, 2015. This would have only been a symbolic gesture as schools were expected to be closed for the Jewish holiday.
CAIR Maryland Outreach Manager Zainab Chaudry, who submitted testimony to the board in favor of Eid equality, said:
"This wasn't quite what we hoped for. We were not seeking removal of references to existing religious holidays, even if they will be added in a box on the side of the calendar. We were simply requesting that the board include the Muslim holiday on the 2015-16 calendar along with the Jewish holiday that will take place on the same day."
Board member Janet Siddiqui, who opposed the vote, expressed concern that the HCPSS Board of Education proposed this calendar without seeking the community's input. Last November, the Equality 4 Eid Coalition petitioned the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education with the same request. That board voted similarly to HCPSS, creating an uproar and attracting international media attention.
SEE: Holidays Stricken From Next Year's Montgomery Schools Calendar (Washington Post)
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.