Washington — The county council of Howard County, Maryland — a suburb of
Washington and Baltimore — made headlines recently when it passed
legislation prohibiting the scheduling of public hearings on the two Eid
holidays, the most holy days in Islam.
Although Howard County’s action is unusual, it does reflect a growing trend
toward official recognition of Muslim holidays in the United States,
according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which
informally tracks such developments.
Especially since the attacks of September 11, 2001, “more and more Muslims
are working to get their communities integrated into U.S. society and have
made efforts to get their religious holidays recognized and accommodated at
school and in the workplace,” says Rabiah Ahmed, communications coordinator
in CAIR’s national office in Washington.
Even before 9/11, public school systems in the states of Michigan and New
Jersey with large Muslim populations declared school holidays on Eid
ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan; and Eid ul-Adha, which celebrates
Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael.
The Dearborn, Michigan, public school system and colleges such as Syracuse
University in New York, offer Halal meals prepared according to Islamic
standards in their cafeterias. At Syracuse, Eid ul-Fitr is also an official
holiday for students and faculty”¦
Celena Khatib, director of the Michigan office of CAIR, says she has seen
an increased effort by both Muslims and non-Muslims to achieve a better
mutual understanding in recent years.
“I have seen an increase in people requesting diversity training, people
requesting speakers on Islam, and I get calls all the time from human
resources officials who want information so they accommodate their
employees’ needs,” she says. “I think the Muslim community realized after
9/11 that we need to be more open for people to get to know us, so we’ve
also become more proactive”¦