‘RIP the Republic’: debate over postponing French Muslim students’ exams for religious holiday

Ile-de-France region’s decision to allow those celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr to postpone graduation exams has sparked controversy. Critics of the move say France is ignoring the principles of secularism.


The measure was proposed by Maison des Examens, which manages the bac in the Ile-de-France region.

This year one of Islam’s most important holidays, Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, is celebrated on July 6. This coincides with the bac exams in France.

On June 30, a directive was sent to head teachers of high schools in Paris, Versailles and Créteil to change the exam schedule for Muslim students if they request it.

Muslim students who opt to celebrate the holiday may skip the exam on Wednesday and request to take it on Thursday or Friday instead, Vincent Goudet, director of the House of Examinations in Ile-de-France, confirmed to AFP on Monday.

The move was immediately slammed by many French officials who say non-Muslim students are being discriminated against. They added that such a precedent would create problems in the French education system.

According to Philippe Tournier, the general secretary of the National Union of management staff of Education (SNPDEN), the idea is “inconceivable.”

“This kind of decision can create a … mess, especially since it contains a lot unsaid things,” he said. “And if all the students say ‘yes’ [to postponing the bac exams because of the holiday], because they prefer to have one more day to review, what will we do?”

Nicolas Cadène, general rapporteur of the Observatory of secularism, told BFMTV that “there is no need for the House of Examination to propose any adaptation, which distinguishes students according to their religious practices.”

A member of the National Assembly of France, Eric Ciotti, wrote an open letter to the national Assembly, calling on Education Minister Najat Belkacem and Prime Minister Manuel Valls to explain the decision. He said it was “unacceptable.”
Social media also blasted the move, saying that postponing exams for Muslims because of religious holidays was the end of the French republic as a secular entity.

“Of course, all France knows whether or not they have their bac and then you have Ile-de-France who has to wait,” one Twitter user wrote, while another user sarcastically added: “It’s a great secular Republic.”

“So Muslim pupils got their bac tests postponed until the end of Ramadan. RIP the Republic,” another user wrote.

Eid al-Fitr, or ‘festival of breaking of the fast’, is celebrated on the first day of the 10th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It begins when a new moon is sighted in the sky. After morning celebrations, worshipers return home and continue the festivities with their families, neighbors and friends.

New York City public school kids getting new Muslim, Lunar New Year holidays

February 4, 2014

 

Mayor de Blasio said Monday that he’d move forward with closing schools for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, two Muslim holy days, and for Lunar New Year. But he was hesitant regarding Hindu festival Diwali.

Appearing on WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show” on Monday, the mayor said he hadn’t taken a position on whether Diwali, the festival of lights celebrated in India and other South Asian countries, should be a day off from school.

But he said he’d move forward with closing schools for Lunar New Year and for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, Muslim holy days.

“It is complicated in terms of logistics and school calendar and budget. But it’s something I want to get done in a reasonable time frame,” he said.

 

NY Daily News:  http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/nyc-public-school-kids-new-holidays-article-1.1601237#ixzz2tY0E5Rjl

Montgomery’s decisions on school holidays

MUSLIM LEADERS in Montgomery County stress that, in petitioning school officials to set aside an Islamic holy day as an official day off, they are not advocating for any of the currently recognized holidays to lose their designations. The unwillingness to broach that possibility is understandable, given the sensibilities and traditions attached to these holidays. But the issues of fairness and equity raised in the county’s debate over when schools should close require renewed scrutiny of a calendar that may no longer be relevant given changing demographics.

The Montgomery County Board of Education decided Tuesday not to add Eid al-Adha to the lineup of days off in the 2013-14 school year. “All we’re asking for is equality under the law,” said Mudusar Raza, president of the Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations as he ticked off the litany of Christian and Jewish holidays on which schools close.

It’s hard not to be sympathetic to the struggle of Muslim students and their parents in balancing school and religious obligations; students who miss school for religious holidays are excused, but many say they feel they can’t miss class for fear of falling behind. Yet it’s also hard not to see the problems that would result if Montgomery were to further balkanize its calendar to accommodate even more religious holidays.

Montgomery officials say they close schools not to recognize a particular faith (that would be unconstitutional) but for valid secular reasons. The Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are days off because officials say there would be high rates of absenteeism for both students and teachers. Good Friday and Easter Monday are days off because of an anachronism in Maryland law that gives local officials no choice in the matter.

Montgomery County school leaders to discuss closing for Muslim holidays

When Montgomery County Council member George L. Leventhal sent a letter to school leaders late last month asking for schools to be closed on two Muslim holidays, he cited the county’s significant Muslim population and religious fairness.

But school systems in the state cannot declare days off — in this case, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr — solely because they are religious holidays, no matter population demographics, said Rochelle Eisenberg, of Towson-based Pessin Katz Law P.A., a lawyer who specializes in education and employment law.

Leventhal (D-At Large) asked Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr and Board of Education President Shirley Brandman in his letter to consider fairness, respect and inclusion.

Dana Tofig, a schools spokesman, said the board would consider Leventhal’s request.

County schools are closed on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Christmas Eve and Christmas, Good Friday, the day after Easter and other nonreligious holidays.

State law requires the Christian holiday closures. The county school system requires the Jewish high holy day closures.

No school systems in the Washington area take days off for Muslim holidays, but some school systems across the country have decided to, such as in Cambridge, Mass., Burlington, Vt., Dearborn, Mich., and Trenton, N.J.

French businesses respond to a growing number of Muslim employees

According to a new study on the workforce and Muslims in France published by anthropologist Dounia Bouzar, Allah a-t-il sa place dans l’entreprise? (Albin Michel, 2009), there are growing tensions related to requests for absenteeism on religious holidays. One third of French businesses, largely in the Parisian region, feel concerned about the matter. Bouzar also claims that the headscarf in particular has caused tensions.

Melilla Designates Eid el-Kebir an Official Public Holiday

World Bulletin reports that Melilla, a Spanish enclave in Northern Morocco, has approved Eid el-Kebir an official public holiday. This is the first time a non-Catholic feast will officially be designated a public holiday since the Reconquista of 1492.

Melilla has about 40,000 Muslims, slightly more than half the population. To date the city had nine Catholic religious holidays, but no Muslim, according to El Pais. Melilla will officially celebrate the Eid on November 17, 2010.

Belgian National Labor Council: Muslim workers may not change their holidays

The Belgian National Labor Council (NAR) announced that employees may not make decisions about work holidays on their own. Muslim workers and organizations arguing on their behalf have asked for employers to enact “floating holidays,” in which employees would be able to choose whether religious holidays, such as Muslim Eid celebrations, would be a vacation day – but would use the “floating holiday” in exchange for working on another holiday – generally more officially recognized holidays. The NAR dismissed the proposal, saying that such a move would cause too many organizational problems and require too much restructuring. Joelle Milquet, the Belgian Minister of Employment, agrees with NAR’s standpoint.

Le Figaro Article Describes Welcomed Immigrants in the Province of Quebec

Every year, the province of Quebec welcomes 45,000 immigrants whose religious traditions are largely _ respected. _ In their rapport stemming from the recent Reasonable Accomodation debates in the province, sociologist Gerard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor noted that _ the requests for religious holidays have become increasingly frequent, coming from Protestants, practicing members of the Jewish community, and from other faiths like Islam and Hinduism. _ Canadian Muslims, the article claims, often have prayer rooms available.

State of Legal Recognition of Islam in Germany

The document is a Government’s 88 pages response to a parliamentary motion by the Greens (written in German). It deals with numbers, with exercise of religion (e.g. number of mosques, languages of services, training and origin of imams, residence permits for imams, religious holidays, funeral law, etc), with legal recognition as entities, with state-religion constitutional involvement, religious instruction in schools and kindergardens, university posts for Islamic studies and theology, tax law, construction law, labour aspects, representation in media bodies, etc

Schools Proposal Disturbs Muslims; Baltimore County Schools Would Not Close For Holy Days

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.