Happy holidays?

meccakids2While the population of the country is over three-quarters Christian, it is not surprising that there are regions where other religions predominate or are large enough to make a significant impact. The Muslim student population in Dearborn, Michigan, is a case in point.

Detroit Free Press reporter Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki, who handles the education beat, shares the details. Apparently 35 percent of the kids are expected to be absent on Tuesday so they can celebrate Eid al-Adha. But because the school district mistakenly thought the three day festival began on Wednesday, the school district is going to be out $100,000. Such funding cuts occur if attendance is below 75 percent on any day.

The article is largely about the ramifications to the school district if attendance lags, but the reporter interviewed Muslims and provided the religious context for the day:

"Even if there is school, my son will not be attending," said Ghada Makki, who has a 15-year-old son, Nour, at Fordson High School. "We come to the mosque, we pray, we celebrate with family."

"It's haram to work on our Islamic holy days," Makki said Friday, using the Arabic word for prohibited. "It will be a sin to do something that is haram. Even my husband, he owns a shop. He will close."

Eid al-Adha, known in English as the Feast of Sacrifice, marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and is one of the two most important Muslim festivals each year. The other is the Eid al-Fitr, celebrating the end of the fast of Ramadan.

On Eid al-Adha, Muslims around the world celebrate in solidarity with pilgrims in Mecca, recalling the ancient patriarch Abraham's obedience to God and his sacrifice of a ram.

The exact date the festival begins each year is based on the appearance of the new moon over Mecca, to coincide with those making a pilgrimage there.

It is interesting to see how government schools accommodate various religious holy days. It's also not hard to see how some religious devotees might prefer running their own private schools over navigating the bureaucracy. Certainly that explains the large Roman Catholic and Lutheran parochial school systems in this country.

Either way it's important for reporters on the education beat to look at how students celebrate their holy days on a government calendar that is, of course, largely devoid of sacred time.

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