Muslim leaders ask for equal billing with Jewish holiday on Montgomery calendar

Muslim community leaders in Montgomery County this week asked that the Islamic holy day of Eid al-Adha be given equal billing as the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur on Montgomery’s 2015-2016 school calendar.

They described the issue as symbolic but important.

In 2015, both holidays will fall on Wednesday, Sept. 23, but a calendar draft does not give them the same weight. Yom Kippur — for which county schools will be closed — is listed beside the date. The Muslim holiday is included in a parenthetical notation: Eid al-Adha also falls on this date.

Muslim leader Saqib Ali asked at a school board meeting this week that the calendar be changed to say: Yom Kippur/Eid al-Adha.

“We need to see equal treatment,” Ali told the board. “Here is a case where, on a piece of paper — this is strictly a symbolic issue — but on this day when schools are closed, even on this day, the Jewish holidays are given sort of precedence or elevated.”

The calendar question comes after Muslim leaders have repeatedly asked that at least one of the two major Muslim holidays be recognized with a day off school in Montgomery.

This week’s calendar request, signed by six other leaders of the Eid coalition, “is a very, very minimal request,” Ali said. He said the convergence of the two holidays is a “happy coincidence” for Muslim families, but more is needed.

“If MCPS can’t list the holidays equally, if they won’t even grant that, then I think people are going to start asking questions about MCPS’s general attitude toward the Muslim community,” he said.

Board Member Christopher Barclay asked district staff to look into the request. He also said he believes a standard is needed for school closings.