A group of Muslims in Florida is hoping school officials add at least one day off to the calendar so students can observe Islamic holidays.
The Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations made its case to the Hillsborough County School Board this week, looking for Nov. 4, 2005, to be made a non-student day in honor of Eid al-Fitr, a holy day marking the end of Ramadan.
“How can you continue to ignore our needs, our holidays, our interests?” 16-year-old Mariam Osman, asked the board, according to the Tampa Tribune.
Another holy day, Eid al-Adha, is also being sought for recognition in January 2006.
“Our holidays go unnoticed,” Ahmed Bedier, director of Tampa CAIR, said, as he noted Muslim students watch classmates of other faiths enjoy their respective holidays. He said the request for recognition is coming at this time because “we’re organized now.”
The Tribune reports the superintendent said that no religious holiday is officially recognized, though some days off for students happen to fall on religious holidays.
Ken Otero, assistant superintendent for the administration, told those in attendance families had to provide a note from leaders of their faith to be excused from classes on religious holidays.
“Why do they need a note? I’m a Christian and I take Christmas off,” board chairwoman Candy Olson asked.
CAIR claims some 30,000 Muslims live in the Tampa area, though it did not provide a figure on the number of Islamic students in public schools.
The board held off on voting on a new school calendar until January, as it instructed the district to look into the request.
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