Growing up in the United States, Selaedin Maksut used to skip school on Eid to celebrate with his family and attend mosque festivities. But he always felt burdened by missing classes. Now, as the director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), he is working to ensure that Muslim-American students can celebrate Eid without sacrificing their academic success.
Eid al-Fitr is a joyous holiday that marks the end of the month-long fasting period of Ramadan. Muslims around the world celebrate with prayer, feasting, and spending time with family and friends. Muslims residing in the US have felt sorrowful about missing out on celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr with their loved ones over the years. While the rest of the Muslim world regarded it as a special day, for them it was just like any other regular day.
Recognition of Eid as an Official Holiday
In recent years, dozens of public schools across the US have recognized Eid as an official holiday. Muslim-American advocates believe this trend is a result of their activism and a sign of the growing prominence of Muslim communities in the country. Maksut says that recognizing Eid as a holiday will “free” Muslim students from having to choose between academic success and religious observance.
Toolkit for Parents, Students, and Activists
CAIR-NJ has created a toolkit to help parents, students, and activists urge schools to adopt Eid as a holiday. The toolkit includes a draft letter that highlights the dilemma that Muslim students face between prioritising school attendance or religious duties. The goal of the toolkit is to empower community members to seek these accommodations and create more inclusive and welcoming societies for everyone.
Challenges for Muslim-American Students
For Muslim-American students, celebrating Eid can come with challenges. Many schools do not recognize it as an official holiday, and students may have to choose between attending school or observing the holiday. This can lead to missed exams, homework, and other academic opportunities. Muslim-American students may also face discrimination and prejudice in schools, which can create additional barriers to celebrating their faith.
The Importance of Inclusion
Recognizing Eid as a school holiday is one way to promote inclusion and respect for Muslim-American students. It sends a message that their faith and culture are valued and celebrated. Inclusion is important for all students, as it creates a sense of belonging and encourages diversity and understanding. By recognizing the importance of Eid and other religious holidays, schools can foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone.
Muslim-American activists like Selaedin Maksut are working to ensure that Muslim students can celebrate Eid without sacrificing their academic success. By recognizing Eid as an official holiday, schools can promote inclusion and respect for Muslim-American students and create a more welcoming environment for everyone. The CAIR-NJ toolkit empowers parents, students, and activists to advocate for this recognition and create more inclusive communities. Celebrating Eid and other religious holidays is an important part of the Muslim faith and provides opportunities for community building and reflection. This not only benefits this student but also helps in promoting peace and stability within the country.