Secularism is a dying ideology in today’s time, especially when the ones propagating it find reasons to minimalize it at ground level. The Hewlett-Woodmere Public School Board, Nassau County, has drawn severe censure from the Muslim advocacy groups, for not including two holy Muslim holidays – Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, in the annual list for the 2018-19 school year. These holidays mark the observance of the end of the holy month of Ramadan and Feast of Sacrifice and is celebrated globally such.
Although the district administrators requested for the inclusion, the school board unanimously decided to not observe these Muslim holidays in a 7-0 vote.
The board has released its statement citing the reason for their decision as “the board exercised its discretion and determined that insufficient secular purpose would be achieved by closure on these days. We were advised by counsel that such decision was legally permissible. However, we recognize, accommodate, and support every Hewlett-Woodmere student’s absolute right to absent themselves from school on religious holidays.”
With a steadfast growth in the Muslim population in the area, Shanaz Mallik, grandmother of two started the petition to include the two Muslim holidays. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York (CAIR-NY), the Board of Education’s decision might have been made on an anti-Muslimism text message circulating in the community, just before their meeting. The message reportedly stated that the observance of Muslim holidays should not be included in the annual calendar, as it would entice more Muslims to inhabit the area, leading to the crashing of the real estate prices for the non-Muslims, for no one would want to live next to them!
The meeting even saw some derogatory comments towards Muslims related to the 9/11 attacks.
Whether or not the Board’s decision was influenced by the anti-Muslim propaganda, we might never know. But what is clear is the inane sense of hatred and bias towards Muslims in general. But beneath the surface lies an uncertainty for the Muslim community of being ostracised or worse. The Board utterly missed the opportunity to lead by example and show the community, especially the children in schools, how exactly inclusivity of religion or community works.
Snigdha is a 'closet' writer with unapologetic opinions on life and people around her. She supports the cause of protecting endangered civil rights like free speech, equity, equality, and most importantly common sense.