Recognizing Muslim Holidays

Posted: 5 Safar 1422, 29 April 2001

Since 1776 the United States has grown from a nation of fairly few religious differences to one of countless religious groups. Although, Islam is one of the major minorities, with around 10 million Muslims in the US, it is greatly misunderstood and usually regarded foreign.

At school, especially during the holiday season, students are taught about the background of Christmas and Hanukah, but Islamic holidays are usually overlooked. Islamic holidays should be recognized and accommodated exactly as Christmas and Hanukah.

Most calendars have various Christian, Jewish, and other holidays mentioned, but Islamic holidays are never stated. Calendars should note Islamic holidays as well as the others.

There are many ways in which public schools can recognize Islamic holidays. The study of Islamic holidays may be included in elementary and secondary curriculum as opportunities for teaching about religions. Such study serves the academic goals of educating students about history and cultures as well as about the traditions of Islam. Muslim speakers should be invited to give a lecture about Islamic holidays. Information about the holiday should be posted on the bulletin board. Assembly programs could also be held.

To avoid penalizing students for religious observance, school calendars should be prepared as not to conflict with Islamic holidays. A sincere attempt should be made to avoid scheduling graduation, assemblies, tests, and other special school and student events on Islamic holidays. If conflicts occur, teachers and administrators should exercise sensitivity and flexibility in resolving them. A student should not suffer adverse or hurtful consequences from an excused absence for Islamic holiday observance and should be allowed a reasonable opportunity to make up the schoolwork missed due to the absence. Consequences to school records should not be forced upon students who are absent for Islamic holidays. Students should not feel pressured to choose between school attendance and religious observance.

Muslim students should also be excused from classroom discussions or activities related to secular holidays, for example, Halloween and Valentine's Day. In addition, Muslim students may also make requests for excusals from discussions of certain holidays even when treated from an academic perspective. If focused on a limited, specific discussion, such requests may be granted in order to strike a balance between the student's religious freedom and the school's interest in providing a well-rounded education.