Montgomery County Council Member George Leventhal, whose letter to Montgomery County Public School officials last year urging them to consider making Eid a recognized school holiday gave new momentum to the “Eid Equality” effort, told guests at the CAIR-MD inaugural banquet on April 28, 2013 that he would keep his son home on Eid. Leventhal is not Muslim.
The Eid outfits are pressed, the last gift is wrapped, and the English mid-term paper is printed and placed in a book bag.
Many children in Montgomery County and elsewhere in Maryland will most probably not spend the most precious days of the Islamic year in the warmth of family and friends. They will either be at school or rushing through the Eid Salah, stuffing their Eid finery into a backpack. Instead of visiting friends and family, they will be worrying while changing into school clothes with an excused tardy.
On May 1st, 2013 the Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MD) launched its "Equality for Eid" (E4E) campaign. "This is a grassroots community-based initiative led by CAIR-MD seeking Montgomery County Public School closing for Eid holidays," says CAIR-MD Board Member Saqib Ali.
"Next Eid al-Adha, October 15th, I will keep my son home from school," pledges Montgomery County Council Member George Leventhal, who has been working closely with the newly formed coalition on developing an effective, appropriate plan of action. The coalition is planning a sit out.
The coalition urges all Montgomery County residents to follow suit. This is not a Muslim issue, it is an equality issue say E4E backers.
"E4E is trying to mobilize the entire Montgomery County community, regardless of faith," says Zainab Chaudry, Vice-President of CAIR MD.
Last November the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) Board of Education met to adopt a school calendar for the academic year 2013-2014 and decided not to include Eid as a holiday. A coalition building meeting was held in January under the leadership of Councilman Leventhal.
E4E members include Montgomery County parents, students, school staff, businesses, non-profit organizations, and county residents.
Coalition co-chairs include Anhar Karim, a high school junior who is class president and president of the Montgomery County Muslim Students Association; Mimi Hassanein, Vice President of the Montgomery County Muslim Council and co-chair of the Middle Eastern Advisory Group for Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett; Samira Hussein, long-time CAIR volunteer/activist and Family Service Worker for Pre-K programs for Montgomery County Public Schools; Zaffer Mirza, Board of Trustees Member of Muslim Community Center and Muslim community representative of the Montgomery County Public Schools' "School Calendar Committee"; Mumin Barre, president of the Somali Diaspora Network and Co-Chair of County Executive's African Affairs Advisory Group; and Saqib Ali, CAIR-MD director of government relations and former Maryland State Delegate.
Many Muslim students make use of the excused absence and miss a day of instruction to celebrate Eid. Other students, especially high schoolers, have no choice but to skip Eid prayers since making up class work for a missed day can take up to three weeks.
Montgomery County is known for its exemplary public school system, rated amongst the highest in the nation. All 25 MCPS high schools outperformed the nation in the percentage of graduates scoring a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam. According to a 2012 U.S. News & World Report ranking, 62 schools in Maryland made the list of the best in the country, and of those, the top 8 were located in Montgomery County.
The Muslim community needs to unite on this issue, regardless of differences over methods to establish Islamic dates, said Chaudhry.
"Instead of being counteractive the community needs to realize the importance of this issue," says Chaudhry. "There maybe resistance. Some groups may pop up claiming creeping shariah but this is not a reason to be discouraged but a reason to take this seriously," she said. What is at stake is the recognition of the Islamic faith, holidays and community as equal to others in the county, added Chaudhry.