For Muslim Students, a Drive to Deem Holy Days as Holidays

April 29, 2007

Author: Emily Brady

Source: The New York Times

THE movement began last year when statewide tests for elementary school children were administered on Jan. 10, coinciding with Id al-Adha, a holiday that commemorates the story of Abraham and is a time of prayer and feast for the city’s Muslim community.

Muslim parents were dismayed that they were forced to choose between supporting their children’s education and observing one of their holiest days as a family.

“We couldn’t go to prayer with our children,” said Bakary Camara, a Gambian father of five who lives in Highbridge in the Bronx.

Mr. Camara responded to the situation by joining the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays, a group made up of more than 50 labor, community and religious organizations that was formed last April. The organization is urging the city Department of Education to include two Muslim holidays, Id al-Adha and Id al-Fitr, the end of the monthlong Ramadan fast, on the city’s public school calendar.

Exactly how many of the city’s students are affected by the situation is unknown. The coalition estimates that 12 percent of public school students are Muslim. The Department of Education does not keep statistics based on students’ religion.