Schools slowly adding Muslim holiday to day-off list

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IRVINGTON, N.J. — Add Eid to the list of religious holidays that can get students a day off from school in some communities.

This Essex County district will become one of only a handful of districts in the nation to close schools on a major Islamic holiday, the Eid-al-Fitr on Nov. 26. Paterson and Trenton schools also close that day.

Public schools across the nation have traditionally closed for major Christian holidays including Christmas and several days before or after Easter, and many also close for Jewish holidays as well.

Now, with Islam emerging as one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States, some school districts with significant Muslim populations are recognizing the Eid holidays.

“Up to now, the major holidays have either been Christian or Jewish,” said Frank Belluscio, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association. “But now we’re diversifying, and I’m sure this is something we’ll see other districts doing in the future.”

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Irvington, 2.9-square-mile community adjacent to Newark, is the latest to give students off for the Eid, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, the holiest month of the year for Muslims.

Superintendent of Schools Ernest Smith said community leaders convinced the school board that sufficient numbers of students and teachers observe the holiday and planned to be absent from school on the Eid holiday.

Paterson, with its large Arab-American population, started giving students off for Eid about three years ago.

“Members of the Muslim community came forward and requested we consider doing it,” said Patricia Chalmers, a school district spokeswoman. “It really came from the community itself, and we were one of the first in the nation to do it.”

Trenton has closed its schools for Eid for nearly a decade, a school official said.

In Michigan, Dearborn schools started closing for Eid in 2001, and the Crestwood school district agreed this year to close on Eid as well.

Other New Jersey municipalities with significant Muslim populations still do not close for Eid, including Newark, Jersey City and Camden.

The Eid holiday is slowly gaining in American public consciousness as well. The U.S. Postal Service recently introduced an Eid stamp.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Associated Press, USA
Nov. 14, 2003
Wayne Parry

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This post was last updated: Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 8:52 PM, Central European Time (CET)