Montgomery County School District Removes Religious Holidays From School Calendar After Muslims Requested Equal Treatment

Traditional American holidays such as Christmas and Easter have been removed from next year’s school calendar in Montgomery County. The Washington Post reports that Montgomery’s Board of Education voted 7 to 1 Tuesday to eliminate references to all religious holidays on the published calendar for 2015-2016, a decision that followed a request from Muslim community leaders to give equal billing to the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha.

There will be a noticeable difference in next year’s school calendar, as there will be no mention of any religious holidays by name. The schools will, however, be closed on days that have shown a high level of student and staff absenteeism. Though those days happen to coincide with major Christian and Jewish holidays. Last year, the school district attracted similar controversy when the Muslim leaders pleaded to shortened winter breaks to allow these extra U.S. Muslim holidays.

The Muslim community in Montgomery County is now within the tens of thousands, according to Muslim leaders in Montgomery County. They asked why a holiday wouldn’t similarly be given for Eid al-Adha, one of two major Muslim holidays, in a county with a growing Islamic community.

The Muslim leaders were not happy with the board’s decision to strike all religious holidays from school calendar in Montgomery County.

A former Maryland state delegate and co-chair of the Equality for Eid Coalition, Saqib Ali, expressed his disappointed with the result of the board meeting.

“By stripping the names Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality. It’s a pretty drastic step, and they did it without any public notification.”

The Muslim leaders in Montgomery County wanted the school district to recognize with equal prominence the holiday of Eid-al-Adha, which celebrates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son to God. The holiday is celebrated on the same day as the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. The leaders remark that the recognition would be a symbolic but important step towards equality.

Muslim parents say their children get a clear message from the Montgomery County school system that they are second class citizens.

In Montgomery, closing schools for Jewish holidays began in the 1970s.

In voting to scrub the holiday names from the calendar, board members said they were trying to reflect the reason schools are closed on religious holidays because of operational impacts such as high absenteeism among students and staff on those days, and not because the school system is observing a religious occasion.

Do you agree with the decision of the Montgomery school district to remove all religious holidays from the calendar after Muslim leaders requested equal treatment?