CAIRO - An America Muslim mother in the state of California is spearheading a campaign to add `Eid Al-Fitr, one of the two major Muslim festivals, to the public school holiday calendar in the United States.
We just didn't go to school, Veronica Aziz, a Muslim mother of three in Lodi, California, told the Lodi News-Sentinel.Our community was so small that if we missed a day it didn't matter.
Aziz's children attend Borchardt Elementary School, where 10 to 15 percent of the children come from Muslim families.
But during `Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, the children go absent from the school to celebrate the Muslim festival.
But this leave them upset as they feel they would fall behind because of their absence.
They get upset, the Muslim mother says of her children.
I want to be able to tell them not to worry.
`Eid Al- Fitr is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations, together with `Eid Al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice.
Aziz says her nine-year-old son Sajaad is reluctant to miss any school classes, even for a day when his whole family is together and he may even be getting gifts from grandparents.
Last year, the children went to school after begging their family not to be kept home to keep up their perfect attendance.
The Lodi Unified School District allows children to take `Eid Al-Fir a day off as an excused absence, according to California education code.
The school even encourages students by offering ice cream incentives to those who make it through a full semester without missing a day.
It's not perfect attendance minus the flu, or perfect attendance minus when you broke your arm. And it's not perfect attendance minus the day you took off for a religious observation. You make a commitment with religion, and with that comes sacrifices, Principal Janis Morehead said.
I don't have time to keep track of perfect attendance except for this or that. Perhaps the family can take them for a treat of their own.
The mother has launched a petition to add `Eid Al-Fitr to the public school holiday calendar in the United States.
I don't want to ask the question, Should I let you go to school that day?' Aziz said.
There would be peace of mind for us, and I could tell my children, Tomorrow is our day.'
Aziz contacted the district and spoke with Superintendent Catherine Pennington who explained that providing an excused absence for a religious holiday is not a local decision, and a petition must be submitted to the state.
However, Giorgos Kazanis, a representative from the California Department of Education, said school districts have more leeway on these decisions.
Generally, most of these decisions are made on a local level, he said.
Elsewhere across the United States, recognizing Muslim religious holidays is gaining ground.
In Boston, leading schools Cambridge Public School District issued a decision in 2010 to recognize `Eid Al-Fitr and `Eid Al-Adha, which marks the end of hajj, making it easier for Muslim students to honor their holiest days.
Several cities in New Jersey close schools on Muslim holidays.
Dearborn, Michigan, where nearly half of the 18,000 students are Muslims, is believed to be the first city to close school on Muslim festivals.
In September 2010, public schools in Burlington city, Vermont, also closed on `Eid al-Fitr for the first time.The United States is home to a Muslim community of between six to eight million.