With an estimated 12% of the city’s public school students practicing Islam and celebrating Ramadan this month, Bronx high schools are doing their best to accommodate the growing population’s religious obligations.

Some students from the Bronx High School of Science’s large Muslim population, pray – often using their jackets as prayer mats – in a space in the back of the cafeteria.

“We don’t advocate or publicize the space, because we can’t. But it is off the beaten track, where they can pray at any time,” said Assistant Principal Phoebe Cooper. “We try to make whatever accommodations we can.”

Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims, falling this year between Sept. 13 and Oct. 13. This ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar is believed to be when the Koran was revealed to the prophet Muhammed.

Most teens and adults fast from sunrise to sundown, visit the mosque nightly and pray five times daily.

While those rituals might bump up against separation of church and state, several Bronx schools said they are being as accommodating as possible.

At Validus Preparatory Academy on Bathgate Ave., students on a mandatory Outward Bound field trip help carry their fasting classmates’ hiking bags and find spaces in the woods for them to pray five times a day, said fitness teacher Erica Crane.

Department of Education policy states that accommodations must be made for students’ religion, as long as it does not get in the way of instruction.

One strong sign of the growing Muslim student population is the effort by a coalition of parent, labor and community groups to make two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr – the latter marking the end of Ramadan – schoolwide holidays. (MORE)


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