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SPEAK OUT: Should MCPS Close Schools For Muslim Holidays?

Montgomery County Councilman George Leventhal suggests MCPS should adjust its calendar to provide two school closing days for the two most religious Muslim holidays.

Christmas and Easter fall during winter and spring breaks. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the two most religious holidays on the Jewish calendar, are granted off-days by Montgomery County Public Schools.

Montgomery County Councilman George Leventhal thinks two additional high holidays should be added to that list.

Leventhal wrote to MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr and Board of Education President Shirley Brandman on May 23 urging the school system to "provide two school closing days each school year in order for American Muslim members of our community to observe Eid-ul-Adha and Eid-ul-Fitr, the two most significant holidays in the Muslim calendar," according to a report by Maryland Juice.

Currently, the two holidays are designated as non-testing days for MCPS and Muslim students' absences are excused. 

"Thousands of our neighbors fill mosques throughout the county for religious observement and deserve the same recognition of their most sacred holidays that other faiths enjoy," Leventhal wrote in his letter to Starr and Brandman.

In response to the letter, MCPS spokesperson Dana Tofig said the school system would consider a change.

"We appreciate Councilman Leventhal’s letter and will certainly take it under consideration during our calendar-setting process, which includes parents, community members and staff," Tofig told Patch in an email. "As a school district, we embrace and celebrate our diversity and are committed to ensuring that all religious faiths are respected.

"MCPS will continue to respect the rights of our students and staff to observe religious holidays and customs. If a student is absent due to observance of a religious holiday, it is considered an excused absence."

SPEAK OUT: Should MCPS make adjustments to its future school calendars to give an off-day recognizing the two most religious Muslim holidays? Tell us in the comments.

Steve Itman August 10, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Students and staff should be provided with a set of "personal days" which they can take for their respective religious holidays at their discretion. This way the school system does not have to recognize specific holiday's or can at least minimize the practice. It is hard to deny Muslims their holidays on the grounds that "we can't do it for everyone" as Muslims are quite numerous in population, in fact their are far more of them than Jews. So it would seem arbitrary to deny them but not Christians or Jews. We probably can't avoid a blanket holiday for Christmas since everything else is closed, but to the vast majority of Americans, Christmas is a secular "santa clause" day and not a holy day, even among believers.
Ananya Bhattacharyya August 30, 2012 at 07:20 PM
This is in response to Bill Marshall's comments about Islam being responsible for so much death, killing, terrorism... This is factually incorrect. History tells us that no community has been free from fanatics who kill in the name of religion. The goals of the KKK included, from an early time on, an intent to "reestablish Protestant Christian values in America by any means possible," (including killings) and included the belief that "Jesus was the first Klansman." Also hundreds of thousands of people were killed during the Crusades. What's more, it's not just religious communities that were violent. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the USSR in the name of communism. The LTTE which pioneered the use of suicide bombs, consisted a majority of Hindus and a minority of Christians.
Denise M. October 08, 2012 at 04:49 PM
First of all, let's get this straight. There used to be two holidays that were recognized as christian school holidays (Easter and Christmas). This is no longer the case. These holidays are now labeled sping and winter holiday. This is fine with me. It would also be fine with me if they did away with these holidays altogether from the school calendar. What isn't fine with me is the fact that they basically removed the catholic holiday names from the calendar. The school is not closed because it is Christmas, but rather for winter break. However, on Yom Kipur, the school is closed because it is Yom Kipur. How is this showing diversity toward the Catholic religion? Anti-semite or anti-christian? You decide.
jag October 08, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Wow, Denise. Way to fail. "First of all, let's get this straight" - you're completely wrong. Students get off TWO days for Christmas and TWO days for Easter. http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/info/calendars/printable/SchoolCalendar1213.pdf Maybe educate yourself a bit before whining, next time.
Galen Muhammad September 23, 2013 at 10:43 PM
Demanding equal treatment is "asking for 'special treatment'"?? How so? I know....there's no sane answer to my rhetorical question.....but I'll "hear" anyone try to rationalize one anyway.

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