Maryland county decides to not close schools for Muslim holiday

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WASHINGTON — The school board of Maryland’s Montgomery County effectively turned down a request Tuesday from leaders of the county’s growing Muslim community to recognize an Islamic holy day next school year with an official day off.

Saying they could not simply add a school closing for a religious occasion, board members asked that student and staff attendance be monitored closely on future Muslim holidays to determine whether there is sufficient absenteeism to warrant such a move.

“I think it’s important to recognize this is not a ‘no’ forever,” said John Mannes, the board’s student member.

Students who miss school for the religious holidays are excused, but many students attend classes anyway.

At Tuesday’s meeting, several Muslim leaders called for fairness as they noted Montgomery’s lineup of Jewish and Christian school holidays.

Their testimony followed several months of effort to push for greater recognition of the Islamic holidays, particularly Eid al-Adha, which falls in mid-October next year.

Mudusar Raza, president of Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he realizes that the school system cannot accommodate every religion with a no-school holiday but said objective criteria should be used to consider requests.

Many board members agreed such criteria is needed.

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