The Brussels government will provide the facilities and information in preparation for the December 20th Eid celebrations of Muslims in Belgium. Muslims will be able to slaughter sheep in a legal matter, and a multi-lingual brochure will be available with information for residents. Financial support will be given to the cities of Anderlecht, Brussels, Schaarbeck, and Sint-Jans-Mokenbeek, and provide for more than 500 sheep to be available to community members wishing to partake in this ritual of the Islamic holiday. The brochure will be available in French, Dutch, Arabic, and Turkish, and remind residents that home slaughter is forbidden, and to encourage use of the publicly made facilities.
From 12-16 October, Muslims in Britain have been celebrating Eid-al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. Both the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury were among those sending greetings – suggesting that such festivals are an important opportunity for people to find common ground. In his message, PM Gordon Brown talked of the Ramadan fast as “an opportunity for self-reflection”, and added of the feasting marking its conclusion: “This celebration is also important for everyone in our country as it reminds us all of our shared obligation to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
The end of Ramadan celebration, Eid Al-Fitr, is bittersweet for Italian Muslims this year. A rise in right-wing politicians media exploitation over hot topics such as women’s clothing issues, have frustrated Muslims who would not like for their Eid festivities to be spoiled by bickering over trivialities. Samir Al-Khalidi, imam of the Al-Huda Islamic center states that there are more imminent concerns for most of Italy’s Muslims – “Muslims are focusing on issues such as mosque construction, political representation, integration and Islamophobia.”
By Debra Nussbaum In Paterson, there has been no school on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur for years. But now the schools are also closed on the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr (the end of the month of fasting for Ramadan) and Eid al-Adha (the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca). Prospect Park schools generally close for the first and last days of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha. Atlantic City added two Muslim holidays to its school calendar in the last three years. And this year, for the first time, Cliffside Park will close Thursday to observe the end of Ramadan…
By Lane Lambert QUINCY – There he was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at a lavish reception marking the nation’s 50th anniversary of independence. Britain’s Prince Andrew was seated to his right, Australia’s ambassador to his left, and Brunei’s foreign minister across the table. ”And they were asking me about Muslims in America,” said Imam Talal Eid, recalling the event a month later. The 56-year-old Lebanon native and Quincy resident is fielding such questions more often than ever these days, in farther-flung places. Four months after he became the first Muslim cleric appointed to the high-profile U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, he is traveling the globe acting as something of a U.S. ambassador to the Islamic world.
Khaled Bouchama, a member of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF), is also a member of the Ile-de-France Regional Council for the Muslim Religion, the CRCM Ile-de-France. Saphirnews.com: What problems have you run into with this year’s Eid? Khaled Bouchama : The problems are always the same. The lack of ritual slaughterhouses has been aggravated by the cosure of Mantes la Jolie which was not up to code. In Seine-Saint-Denis, there was not a single approved slaughterhouse… SN: The CFCM hasn’t done anything about these problems? KB : The CFCM has done nothing. It needs to own its responsibility in this business, because the job of the CFCM is to defend, in a correct and objective manner, the Muslim religion. The French Muslim community is part of the French nation. The state is responsible for this nation. The CFCM must put pressure on the state so that it facilitates the necessary conditions for the Eid sacrifices. For French Muslims, it is a local matter. But the local prefects can only execute the law. For the law to change, there must be a national political presence.
By Liz F. Kay A Baltimore County school board committee has made recommendations about religious holidays for the school system’s calendar, and a leader of the Muslim community said he is disappointed that it didn’t suggest closing for two Islamic holy days. One of the recommendations is to allow students to have two “excused absences” from school for religious holidays. But Bash Pharoan, president of the Baltimore County Muslim Council, has been lobbying to close schools on two Islamic holy days since 2004 because the system closes for the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. “The main issue is that the ad hoc committee failed again to recognize that the issue is about equality,” he said. “We want equal treatment.” State regulations already deem religious observance a “lawful absence,” along with illness or death of a family member. But the committee suggests that the county school system go a step further by petitioning the State Board of Education to amend its regulations so “religious observance would not mar a student’s official attendance record nor prevent any student from obtaining perfect attendance.” “Currently they are penalized de facto by the fact that their record indicates an excused absence,” committee Chairman Luis E. Borunda said. A state steering committee on minority achievement made a similar recommendation to the state board in 2004. Individual school districts set policies for recognizing perfect attendance, said William Reinhard, spokesman for the State Department of Education. For example, in Howard County, students are eligible for perfect attendance regardless of religious absences, according to published reports. Baltimore County schools spokeswoman Kara Calder said Friday that she was “not aware at this time of any schools in this system that calculate attendance using the lawful absence of religion as an exception.” Board members will discuss the recommendations tomorrow. If there is consensus, the recommendations will be sent to Superintendent Joe A. Hairston, said school board President Tom Grzymski. The committee’s other recommendations include: – Noting the Muslim holidays Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha on the calendar block of the days they are observed. – Having the school system refrain from scheduling exams on the two Muslim holidays. – Having the superintendent “make an effort to educate the county’s students on the significance of these holidays during the week preceding these holidays, or at an appropriate time during the school year.” – Having the superintendent monitor attendance at schools in areas where Muslims live. Grzymski said this is the first time during his four years on the school board that members have given the superintendent any direction before the calendar is set. Hairston has not yet appointed a calendar committee to develop recommendations for the 2007-2008 school year, Calder said. According to a school system rule, the committee should include representatives from the PTA Council of Baltimore County, the area education councils, the county student council and the teachers union. The superintendent is required to send his proposal to the county school board for approval a year before it takes effect, Calder said.
By Tara Bahrampour Washington Post Staff Writer Standing before 100 or so girls in green, brown and blue Girl Scouts vests, Sarah Hasan, the leader of Brownie Troop No. 503, explained the Islamic Ramadan fast. “We’re not allowed to eat or drink anything from dawn to dusk for a whole month,” she said, noticing that some girls looked shocked. “It’s a month to be grateful for all the things that you have.” Ramadan, which fell this year in October and November, ends with a big feast called Eid al-Fitr. Last week, five Girl Scout troops from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling hosted an Eid party for five Herndon area troops, their mothers and troop leaders, to share a meal and help demystify Muslim cultural and religious traditions. The annual event, in its fifth year, was one of the activities many Muslim families — especially those with one or more immigrant parents — say are important to help integrate their sons and daughters into the rituals of American childhood. For many Muslim children, living in the United States means constantly balancing between being an observant Muslim and an American kid — identities that aren’t always in sync. “Unlike where we grew up [in Muslim countries], when they walk out the door, they’re seeing something different from what we teach them,” Hasan said. “So you can’t say, ‘That’s just the way it is.’ It’s always like, ‘But why? But how?’ ” Many Muslim immigrants have sought to bridge their old and new worlds since they began coming to the United States in large numbers during the 1960s. But since Sept. 11, 2001, as they have faced increasing hostility and scrutiny, parents and community leaders say, cultural integration is more vital than ever. “How do we deal with harassment, post-9/11? That’s part of our education program: letting people know who Muslims are,” said Rizwan Jaka, president of the Muslim society and a Cub Scout den leader. Like anyone else, he said, Muslims “want to be sure [our children] grow up with good character and good citizenship,” and they seek out activities accordingly. In the Washington area, home to about 250,000 Muslims from several countries, those activities include scouting, basketball, football, cricket and table tennis. The Muslim society’s center, which attracts Muslims from across Virginia, the District and Maryland, has hosted Muslim comedians and Muslim concerts and held interfaith exchanges with churches and an Eid festival with a moonbounce. “This is part of the normal progression of our community,” Jaka said. “They’re wholesome community activities that are compatible with who we are, which is wholesome Americans.” Many on the Muslim society’s board are, like Jaka, younger than 35 and born in the United States to immigrant parents. “We’ve gone through the system here, so we have a better idea of what our young people are facing,” he said. “As other mosques progress and more young people take over, you’ll see more transformation toward that.” U.S. Muslim scout troops have been increasing in the past two decades, said Donald York, director of the relationship division of the Boy Scouts of America: 112 troops with 1,948 members are chartered through an Islamic school or mosque. “What’s happening now in the Islamic community is very similar to what was happening in the 1920s and ’30s in Boy Scouts . . . with the Jewish community,” York said. “They used scouting to assimilate their young people into America.” York said scouting values — which include an adherence to faith — mesh well with Muslim ones. “Islamic families and clergies want the same thing for young people,” he said. “They want them to grow up in their faith and learn their histories and cultures,” he said. “Things like trustworthy, obedient, clean and helpful” — elements of Scout Law — “these are predominant Muslim ideas. They’re very attractive to an Islamic family.” A spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the United States of America said the organization does not ask scouts’ religious affiliation but does encourage spirituality. Troops often meet in churches, synagogues, and, increasingly, mosques. “It’s a pretty common thing,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. “In fact, we did an ad campaign trying to show Muslims as regular people, and that was one of the things we showed: a Muslim Girl Scout troop in California.” Most Muslim children attend public schools and absorb American culture there, Hooper said. But people whose children attend Islamic school or are home-schooled also say connections with non-Muslims are important. “In this society, everybody has to learn to live together,” said Zohra Sharief, a Pakistani living in Woodbridge who home-schools her five children and co-leads Troop No. 503. “If I isolate myself from the society, it’s my loss.” It helps to have non-Muslim peers who understand the traditions, Hasan said. Still, she said, as immigrants arrive from Muslim countries and start families here, they must differentiate between what is religious and what is cultural and decide which American cultural practices to embrace and incorporate. Many note, for example, that dress is a cultural choice. Some immigrants arrive accustomed to wearing Western attire; some hew to the sartorial traditions of their home countries; some make compromises, such as forgoing headscarves but forbidding miniskirts. Hasan, 34, who is of Indian descent and was raised in Kuwait, said she and her three daughters do not wear head coverings except during prayers. “I tell them, ‘We’re in America; you can wear pants.’ ” But she has a blanket rule against another American ritual: sleepovers. “It’s not religious,” she said of her reasoning, “but I remember my mom said it’s not decent for young ladies to be sleeping in a house other than their own.” At the center last week, in a large room that serves as a prayer hall, party room and indoor gym, girls in headbands and jeans sat beside girls in headscarves and shalwar kameez — tunics and trousers — to make crepe-paper Eid necklaces. Hasan told the girls about Eid rituals, such as putting henna on their hands; taught them to say ” Salaam -u- aleikum ,” Arabic for “Peace be upon you”; and read a story about a family celebrating Eid. Afterward, Mona Magid, 6, a Brownie in a magenta headscarf who is the daughter of the society’s imam, explained more about fasting. “Like if you weren’t eating for the entire day, the way your throat would get dry is how the poor feel,” she said. “So Muslims want to try to help the poor.” Ashley d’Hedouville, 7, a second-grader at Clearview Elementary School in Herndon, said she learned that “Ramadan is when you eat at night.” Her sister Ann Marie, 8, said she knew about fasting from a classmate. “My friend does that. She goes to the library” during lunch. Once she and her classmates learned the reason, “we wouldn’t talk about food in front of her, or drinks.” While the Girl Scouts munched on halal, or religiously sanctioned, hot dogs, the center’s Muslim Boy Scout troops met downstairs for pizza, and the adults had their own cultural exchange. The Muslim mothers brought dishes from their home countries (chicken curry, rice, lamb and samosas) and from the United States (pasta casserole) and a large cake wishing a happy Eid. Gina Gallagher, a Herndon resident attending the dinner for the second consecutive year, said getting to know the Muslim mothers had been a revelation. “A lot of people look at the women with the head scarves, and they can’t relate,” she said. “You look at a woman like that and you’re like, ‘I don’t have anything in common with her.’ And then you sit down, you eat, you realize you all have the same problems.”