Target: Broward County School Board Chair, Ann Murray
Goal: Close schools on Muslim holidays in Florida’s Broward County so that students will not miss classes
Florida’s Broward County School District recently held a meeting in which its Diversity Committee discussed a proposal to close district schools on the two biggest Muslim holidays. The families supporting the proposal were not asking the school to close for religious reasons, but because a significant percentage of the students in the district celebrate those Muslim holidays, and parents do not want their children to miss important tests because of their religious obligations. The school board must ensure that Muslim students are treated equally to Christian and Jewish students by approving the proposal to close schools for these holidays.
Although some opponents of the proposal fear that the change would amount to giving preferential treatment to Muslim students, there are several Christian and Jewish holidays when schools in the district are closed. District officials cite low attendance on those days as the reason for closing schools, and that is the same reason families give for requesting that the district close schools on the two Muslim holidays. Many of the district’s students are Muslim, and parents worry that they will have to choose between having their children celebrate the religion’s most important holidays and ensuring that their children will not miss any important exams.
Instead of allowing a respectful discussion of the fairness of these changes, several opponents of the proposal at the meeting resorted to hateful Islamophobic remarks in an attempt to sway school board members. In their arguments, opponents made references to terrorism, called Islam a violent religion, and suggested that adding these two extra days off would lead to Muslims taking over American culture. Others opponents claimed that the United States is a Judeo-Christian country and that schools should not cater to the needs of Muslim students.
Muslim families are only looking for equality and fair treatment, and denying the request to close schools in the district on these two holidays would be disrespectful to the Muslim members of the community. Ensure that all students are treated equally by closing schools on the two biggest Muslim holidays so that students will not have to choose between attending classes and observing religious holidays.
Dear Ms. Murray,
Muslim families recently requested to have schools in your district close on two major Muslim holidays so that students will not have to risk missing important tests on those days. The schools in the district close on various Christian and Jewish holidays because of low attendance, so it would make sense to also close schools on days when a significant number of Muslim students cannot attend.
In addition to ensuring that a majority of students will be able to attend classes every day they are held, this change would be a sign of respect toward the district’s Muslim population. This is a matter of fairness, and making the change would show that the school district considers its Muslim students equal to the rest of the population, which might encourage the Islamophobic members of the community to change their beliefs.
Broward County should strive to maintain its diversity by ensuring that Muslim families are treated as equal members of the community. I am asking that you approve the request to close district schools on the two biggest Muslim holidays so that students will not have to choose between school and family obligations.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Shazron via Flickr.