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School District will observe the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.

In a bid to promote equality among different faiths, Montgomery County’s Board of Education voted to give students a day off on September 12, 2016 for the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha. The day, which celebrates the readiness of Abraham to offer his son up to sacrifice to Allah, may fall either on September 12 or September 11 as it is calculated using the lunar calendar.

The decision was met with warm support by the local Muslim community, which for years has been fighting for the same rights as Christians and Jews. The problem partly stems from the fact that the Muslim population is not as big as the other dominant faiths. Just last year, the board had decided to remove all religious mention from the school calendars even though those days were observed as holidays. Although this move was met with derision by a lot of people, it did not change the fact that Easter and Christmas fell conveniently during the spring or summer break. The district cited reasons of absenteeism on those days for giving the day off.

The suburban school system of Montgomery County, which is 156,000 students strong, happens to be the biggest in Maryland. It has been struggling to make room for the diversity of the local student body. A few of the districts in Jersey City have closed schools for Muslim holidays for many years, while Jersey City voted recently against closing for the Festival of Eid.  Earlier this spring, the New York City’s Education Department voted to close schools down for Eid-al-Adha and Eid-al-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast that marks the last day of Ramadan. A lot of the Muslim families no longer have the difficult choice of honoring their religion or attending school on their most important days.

The staff members of the district however are yet to decide the professional workday that needs to accommodate the new holiday. The county has a total of five workdays for teachers before the beginning of the school year and four more professional days across the year. Critics say that although celebration of diversity is a very good thing, there is only so much room you can make for religious holidays in the increasingly diverse cultural hotbed in the country without sacrificing the necessary school days that the children need to get through.

Although for now, it’s safe to say that the board has made the right decision.

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