California student's class project sees San Francisco schools agree to observe Muslim holidays
Muslim holidays will be observed this coming school year for students in San Francisco, the first city in California to make the decision.
The holidays to be observed are Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, two of the most important days in the Muslim calendar, marking the end of fasting after the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the festival of Abraham sacrificing his son to God.
The decision came about as the result of a teenager's class project at Raoul Wallenberg High School. Sara Ouchene did a project advocating for schools to observe Muslim holidays, which last year resulted in a petition that she and her peers circulated.
Her teacher then brought the idea to the San Francisco Unified School District. The Arab Resource and Organizing Center put forward a resolution to the school board, with all but one commissioner voting in favour of the proposal.
"I had an assignment at school where we had to make a change in our community, and I decided to work on making Eid an official holiday. And so, I reached out to my teacher, and I wrote a statement explaining why I want this holiday. And thanks to her, she submitted my petition out," said Ouchene in an interview this week with the local Fox News station.
"We're so proud of ourselves. I'm so excited that this is happening. It's the first city in California to have this as a holiday," Ouchene added.
San Francisco now joins New York City, as well as school districts in Michigan, New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts in granting days off school for the Muslim Eid holidays.
The move, however, has raised eyebrows among some members of the city's Jewish community, which by some estimates is considerably larger than its Muslim population, and which does not have school days off for their holidays.
An Institute for Social Policy and Understanding study based on 2013 demographics estimated that the San Francisco Bay area is home to around 250,000 Muslims, with 3 percent (or around 7,500) living in the city. A 2018 Jewish Community Federation report estimated the Bay Area's Jewish population to be around 350,000, with one-sixth (or more than 58,000) living in the city.
Though the two separate reports appear to be around five years apart, there is still likely a much higher population of Jews than Muslims in San Francisco. Nevertheless, it wouldn't be unheard of to have both Muslim and Jewish holidays off, which is already the case with several diverse school districts on the east coast.