Renee Sang

There are many religious holidays, such as Eid-al-Fitr and Ramadan, that are celebrated in Islamic cultures and not recognized as holidays on the Seminole County school calendar.

Maliha Kareem, Reporter

Too often religious discrimination can be seen when one religion is given a privilege another group of equal or greater size is not. Seminole County schools have a very diverse student body. Many students from all types of backgrounds are eager to be enrolled at Seminole High. Amidst the student body population, there is a significant proportion of students who come from an Islamic background and actively practice the religion. Despite this, there is no recognition made in the official school calendar giving Muslim students the equally important holidays off, even though other major religions such as Christianity and Judaism are considered valuable enough in the eyes of the school board to be recognized.

Three of the world’s major religions include Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. One would assume that with 1.6 million Muslims living in the USA and Islam being one of the fastest growing faiths, Muslim students would have the same entitlement as other students who practice other religions and have recognized national holidays.

In Seminole County any religious holiday can be excused with a note. Despite this, it is somewhat of an inconvenience for students and families who often struggle to take these days off and celebrate together. Recently, a petition to the White House was created across the USA to expedite the change allowing people’s voices to be heard and make Eid, an Islamic holiday, more widely recognized.

Principal Dr. Connie Collins notes, “I have been a principal in Seminole County for 15 years. The policies have always been the same. The calendar is decided by our School Board with recommendations from community members, administrators, teachers, and parents. Days were initially determined by the number of students who would be impacted.”

Seminole High School, being the largest school in Seminole County, is enriched with a diverse group of students. This includes students who follow religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and several others.

Junior Anila Mehdihassan notes, “I remember I signed a petition to make Eid a national holiday and spread the word to everyone I could and posted it.”

Multiple Eids are celebrated by Muslims and are very important holidays within the Islamic community; Eid also serves to represent the five pillars of Islam. There are multiple Eids, such as Eid al-Fitr, which is the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. This is a special time for reflection and being with loved ones after fasting.

Mark Russi, who leads the district effort for The Seminole County Public Schools Calendar Committee, notes,  “Our Calendar Committee, which consists of a Business Advisory Board member, Seminole State College representative, principals from each level, PTA parent representatives, teachers, and Union representatives are guided by the Union contract which list traditional holidays for consideration. The final decision for a new student calendar rest[s] with the School Board. The Board can accept the recommendation, reject the recommendation, or modify the recommendation.”

Allowing these holidays to be recognized would not only be fair to those of that faith, but would enable a more open-minded perspective for religions and allow people to learn more about faiths that they were previously unaware of. For example, such words as “Islamaphobia” or the fear or hatred of Islam would not have evolved in the USA . Perhaps slander and arrogance would not be spoken by people that possess high platforms by people such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

For any additional inquires on religious holidays visit the Seminole County School Board website.