I am Muslim. I am American. I am proud to be both. I am proud to be born in America and educated in the American public school system. One of the more positive memories of my younger days in school was being able to tell my friends and teachers I won’t be coming to school on Eid-ul-Adha and Eid-ul-Fitr. Even some of my friends would joke, “I’m also mooz-lum, I have that holiday too. I won’t be in school.”
What I also remember is my father going to the masjid the nights before the new lunar month moon would be born trying to decide when Eid will be. It is a debate that still happens today and will continue until The End. There is absolutely nothing wrong in this debate either. It is perfectly legitimate and okay to have some communities doing Eid on one day while others on another day. Jummah is obligatory and extremely important to pray weekly. We should petition to have time to pray in schools. That is is a lot harder then to take time off for Eid. Why aren’t we debating on ways to get our entire community to agree to pray their obligatory prayers? Or debating on the obligations the communities should protect battered women or orphaned children? It should not matter whether you choose to follow Saudi Arabia or follow calculated methods or look for the moon anywhere in the world or in your local area. What matters is that you are reciting the takbir. What matters is that you are taking the time off with your family and enjoy it with them. What matters is that you eat some good food and smile.
What is the point in getting public schools to have the two Eid holidays on the calendar? Is it for us to feel proud Islam is being recognized? Is it for ease to get the holiday off? Is it out of love for Allah and His Messenger’s ways (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)? Is it really hard to get off from school and work two days a year? Muslims have been here for hundreds of years and did they need their children’s schools to recognize Eid to fully practice Islam and be good Muslims?
I was disappointed when I saw Muslims sharing a WhiteHouse.gov petition to get Muslim holidays recognized across all public schools across America. I apologize for saying this but this is nonsensical. Religious holiday recognition is done on the local level, not the federal level. Federal law cannot compel state, municipal, or other local governments to observe or recognize federal holidays in any way; the Tenth Amendment effectively reserves holiday creation policy to the governments of the several states. This shows our lack of knowledge of understanding of how the system works. Our community still has a lot of growing up to do when it comes to understanding the political system in America. I was even more disappointed when major Muslim organizations were also endorsing this and sharing it.
Getting back to the actual idea of getting Muslim holidays recognized in public schools, it is silly for us to petition any public school in America to adopt our holidays when our own community celebrates it on various days. How do you think it will sound when the public school calendar has it listed on Monday but some Muslim communities are celebrating it on Tuesday. When a young Muslim boy goes to his teacher and explains his religious holiday is on Tuesday and he will not be in school. His teacher will be confused and say it’s listed as Monday on the school calendar.
Recently NYC public schools have adopted Muslim holidays into their calendar. This is bound for disaster. I can tell you that Muslim communities in the NYC area celebrate Eid on different days every single Eid. That means there will be students at NYC public schools celebrating Eid not on the day assigned by the calendar. How many meetings, efforts, funds and hours were spent trying to push this agenda to the NYC public school board? Was this time wisely spent? Was this effort worth it? Is this really a great thing for Muslims? Is it really?
I will probably get responses and comments from many people who disagree with me, which is fine. The beauty of this country is that we can voice our differences without fear of being persecuted. Do petitions even work? I mean maybe we could have petitioned Obama to address the NYC wiretap issue? Or the drones over Pakistan and Yemen? Or address the lack of action towards the situation in Syria (Especially how it appears it is so devastating that they are now eating cats due to hunger)? If we did already, then do it again and again. The first petition failed for the Muslim holidays but again our communities started a second one. If we are so adamant about getting holidays, perhaps we should be more adamant about things that truly matter and where the President can actually do something about it. Unless of course it is extremely important to get non-Muslim students and teachers to take off for Eid.
Alright, I am done. Now let’s go drink some Coca-Cola.