Montgomery Muslims Ask for Day Off from School to Celebrate Eid al-Fitr
By Barbara A. Preston | Posted April 27, 2023
Samira Ghani and about 25 members of the Montgomery Muslim community attended the board of education meeting on Tuesday to formally request that Montgomery public schools close in honor of the religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which is celebrated worldwide. Eid marks the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan.
“I would like to request that it be a day off for Montgomery public schools.” Ghani said. “We have a growing Muslim population. It would be an enormous benefit for the Muslim kids in our community to be able to have this day off, stress free, and to be able to worship and celebrate with their families and friends."
Montgomery students Ayla Juha (left) and her sister Yumna Juha at the Montgomery Township School Board meeting on Tuesday.
Several neighboring towns have made this happen for their students and staff, including Franklin Township and South Brunswick.
Montgomery High School senior Nayyab Farooq spoke at the meeting as well, stating she is the president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA). “As a member of this club since my freshman year, I’ve seen it grow from five members in 2019 to 30 members in 2023.”
“As a club, we strive to make our presence in Montgomery High School known, and to educate the public about Islam, and misconceptions," Farooq said. "This year, our club accomplished several successes, including: Raising $5,000 for earthquake relief in Syria and Turkey through a chocolate fundraiser."
The club also made sweatshirts to represent the MSA at school; organized its first student potluck for Ramadan in collaboration with Hillsborough’s MSA; invited community leaders and scholars (including spiritual leaders from three local mosques) to educate students; and participated in events including International Night and Garba.
"Eid is a holiday that every Muslim has the right to take off from school, however, doing so significantly puts academic pressure on students," she added.
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The outreach coordinator for The Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), New Jersey Chapter, Zaid Hussein commended the Montgomery Township School Board for being a trailblazer when it comes to supporting its Muslim students.
Hussein thanked the board for giving Muslim students accommodations during Ramadan.
"When I was in high school, being a Muslim student in an American high school was very difficult," he said. "For these students to be able to practice their religion—it is a tremendous feat that the board should be very proud of."
"Including Eid as a school holiday would send a message of inclusivity and respect for all religious beliefs," he concluded. He added that 36 school districts in New Jersey have off for Eid. "And, that number is growing."
Other members of the audience at the school board meeting spoke in support of recognizing Eid as a public school holiday in Montgomery.
School Superintendent Mary McLoughlin said the Montgomery School District is considering the community’s request to recognize Eid as a school holiday beginning next year.