Some families in Montgomery County kept their kids home from school to celebrate Eid al-Adha, a celebration they say is equivalent to Christmas or the Jewish high holy days, and they believe it should be a day off for all students in the county.
A significant number of Muslim students missed classes at Damascus Elementary School and Seneca Valley and Clarksburg high schools Tuesday for their high holiday.
The Muslim community is celebrating Eid al-Adha with solemn prayer services. There's a feast of lamb to remember Abraham's sacrifice to Allah. It’s a day for family and friends.
We come together to commit ourselves to the common good of all people,” said Imam Yahya Hendi of Clergy Beyond Borders.
Students had to take an excused absence from public school in Montgomery County to celebrate the holiday.
“I think it’s fair if we get a day off of school even if we have to make up all the work,” eighth grader Samar Alashi said. “I still think it’s worth it.”
“For religion others get a day off,” fifth-grader Rama Alashi said. “I think it would be good to have a day to enjoy with our family.”
But some parents say it’s time to give Muslim students a school holiday.
“I have three children who have been to Montgomery County Public schools and 15 grandchildren so I don't want to wait until another generation to come,” said Mimi Hassanein, of Coalition for Eid Holiday. “We’ve been trying to work on this to close the school but we were told that we don't have enough numbers.”
“I think we should have a holiday for Muslims,” Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said. “When you look at this community, the large number\ of parents forced to decide whether to send their children to school or observe the holiday, I think it’s long overdue."
“I do think we need to be respectful of all faiths and leave it to the school board to do their business,” County Councilman Roger Berliner said.
Montgomery County Public Schools say a court decision makes it illegal for a local school system to close to recognize a religious holiday. It has to be for operational reasons, meaning there will be so many absences that operating schools would be difficult.
“Forty years ago a decision was made by the Board of Education to close on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana when they fall on a school day,” said Dana Tofig of MCPS. “That was made as to high staff absenteeism.”
One woman who has been working for a Muslim school holiday for 40 years said that four decades ago there probably weren't enough Muslim students to justify closing schools, but she believes today there are.