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Iowa City students ask district to recognize Muslim holidays

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Some Iowa City elementary students are urging the school district to recognize Muslim holidays, and board members say they’re willing to consider the request.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports several students proposed the idea at a school board meeting last week. They suggested the district schedule days off for the Muslim holidays of Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.

The idea started with a letter sixth-grader Rayan Saeid wrote in her journal about celebrating the holidays. She didn’t think much about it, but her mother was impressed and showed the letter to a friend, who suggested she send it to the school district superintendent. He forwarded it to school board members.

Rayan told board members the holidays are important to Muslims.

“The Muslim community is getting bigger here in Iowa City, so (getting the holiday off) will benefit many people,” she said.

Fifth-grader Reem Kirja was among several students who joined Rayan before the board. She wants other students to know both holidays are times for families to get together and have fun, similar to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“Muslims aren’t that scary,” she said. “Muslims are just humans. They can be your friends. They are regular people you can interact with, just with a different religion.”

Board Member Ruthina Malone says the board can explore the feasibility of accommodating major holidays celebrated by Jewish and Muslim students.

The board has time to decide, as neither Eid Al-Fitr nor Eid Al-Adha fall on a school day until the 2020-2021 school year.

Eid Al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and Eid Al-Adha commemorates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as God had commanded. Ibrahim is the Arab name for the prophet Abraham.