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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Students and teachers will not have to report to school on the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr next year after the Iowa City school board agreed to recognize it as a holiday on the school calendar.
The decision to give all students the day off school on Eid al-Fitr next year, which falls on May 3, 2022, was made after student Reem Kirja spent three years advocating for it.
Reem, 13, an eighth-grader at Northwest Junior High, began advocating to make Eid a holiday by writing a letter to the superintendent.
A petition created this year by Reem on change.org to raise awareness and support for no school on Eid for Iowa City schools has over 5,000 signatures.
Superintendent Matt Degner said future calendars will always include Eid as a no-school day.
The day will be added to the end of the school year, moving graduation to Memorial Day weekend, Degner said.
School board member Ruthina Malone said some people may be concerned about 'where will it end?” when making holidays no- school days.
'It's not incorporating every single holiday, but I think it's important to do this work as our populations continue to change,” she said. 'I don't think the work will ever change or stop.”
Reem asks people to consider what it would be like to wake up on Christmas morning, run downstairs in excitement, open presents, and then have to go to school.
'That would never happen, but for many Muslim students in the Iowa City Community School District, it's what's asked of them each year Eid falls during school,” Reem wrote on the change.org petition.
Eid follows a lunar calendar, so the holiday falls on a different day each year.
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the monthlong dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan and will last from May 12 to May 13 this year. This holiday marks one of two Eid holidays that are celebrated throughout the year.
Eid al-Adha recognizes Ibrahim's faithfulness in his willingness to sacrifice his son and is in July this year.
Adding Eid as a holiday on the school calendar is a rising national trend over the past several years.
Other states have granted this request, including New York, which has stated that acknowledging Eid promotes acceptance and equality.
In the past when Reem has missed school to celebrate Eid, she said it is difficult to catch up on assignments.
'One time I took the day off and I came back and didn't understand anything,” Reem said.
Reem said it would be so much more challenging next year in high school to make up on classes she missed.
She and her family celebrate Eid al-Fitr in prayer, fellowship and celebration. They call family all over the world and visit with neighbors and friends to wish them a happy Eid.
Reem said she prays for happiness because 'I feel like that's something a lot of people take for granted.”
Reem said many Muslims experience anti-Muslim violence and have been called terrorists and spies.
'The list goes on. I've heard it all,” she said. 'It's heartbreaking, but when you're with your family and community, it lifts you up.”
She hopes now that students have Eid off from school, they might question what it is and have the chance to educate themselves on Islam.
'It's surprising how many people don't know about Eid even though Islam is the second-largest religious group in the world,” Reem said.
Reem said she is really proud of her younger self for advocating to make this holiday a no school day.
'My mom always tells me to mind my actions,” she said. 'I represent about 2 billion people who are misunderstood and misrepresented all the time.
'I took this into my own hands because I felt like no one was going to do it for me. I was going to do it myself.”
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