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Muslim Holidays in American Culture

by Alyssa Asick

Here is a question to ask yourself: Do you know any of the major Muslim holidays? Now what about the major Christian holidays? Statistics show that there are about two billion Christians in the world. That number is decreasing. There are about one and a half billion Muslims in the world, eight million just in North America, and that number is growing. These staggering numbers show that there is no excuse for people to not recognize Islamic culture just as well as we know Christian holidays. Situations like these showcase how ignorance is not prejudice, but it can lead to larger, more dangerous problems. The two official Muslim holidays are Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha. Eid Al-Fitr is celebrated at the end of the religious month of Ramadan, and is the “Festival of Breaking the Fast.” According to an article on CNN, on this holiday “Gifts are usually exchanged, and alms-giving is also a common practice. Another custom involves donning new clothes for the new day, which marks a spiritual renewal.” Eid Al-Adha is celebrated for three days, after the annual Hajj, and is also known as the feast of sacrifice. Similar to Easter, these dates change with the Islamic calendar.
In many schools, students are allotted over a week to celebrate Christmas over winter break. Obviously, not everyone celebrates these holidays. For Muslim holidays specifically, schools do not permit any days off. This is incredibly unfair, as these students have to choose between missing school and important lessons, or their holiday. In 2015, New York City made the progressive decision to put Muslim holidays on their public school calendars. Over ten percent of students in these schools participate in the practices of Islam, and the decision affected around a million people. The bitter reality is that ignorance is prevalent all over the world.
Not only do Muslim students struggle with this, but they also cannot eat most, or any, cafeteria food that is provided by their school. This is because there are components of each lunch option that they cannot eat due to the constrictions of their religion. The ignorance to Muslim culture and religion is not contained just to the educational systems. Ignorance in workplaces also affect Muslims. Muslims cannot take off work for the entire month of Ramadan, and during this time, even relatively sedentary jobs can become unsafe. It is not rare for people to pass out from dehydration, especially younger kids. Summer programs, like training for sports, are usually mandatory and start without the consideration of students are fasting, putting them in an unsafe situation. Most people do not realize what is like not being able to eat or drink for most of the day, so these struggles do not occur to them.
Our society is greatly influenced by the people in power, and how they view Muslims can be detrimental to the possibility of fair treatment in their communities. This progress is halted when you have politicians who take biased information that’s shown in the media, and turn it into a discriminatory act. For example, banning Muslim people from the United States will only make Muslims seem more like an enemy, when they are the same as any other United States citizen. Muslim citizens in the United States are just like everyone else living here, and do not deserve to be treated any differently. Another issue that results in this, is when parents become biased, their children may become biased as well. Many Muslim school-age kids do not feel safe, and over half of all Muslim students have reported being bullied or discriminated against. This is unacceptable because no person should have to endure this for their religion.
Within all of our communities, we need to strive towards becoming more informed and more involved. In Susquehanna Township, schools are closed for Jewish Holidays, but they are still open for Islamic holidays. In Harrisburg, there are Mosque open houses that anyone is invited to, and Muslims who go to local cafes to answer any questions people are curious about. If you call your local representative, you can leave a message on your opinion on any issue to try and really make a change. When you look, there are many opportunities for you to make a difference, and get Islamic culture recognized.

Image by Megan Waardenburg