School gets in the way of Islamic holiday

by Amber Schadewald

On Monday, Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Fitr, or the “celebration breaking the fast,” a holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting on the Islamic calendar.

But, for some students, a religious holiday filled with family, praying and food was marked instead with exams and lab assignments.

Pharmacy junior Jibril Hamud spent his morning praying at a mosque on Riverside Avenue South with his family, other students and community members, but had to leave the festivities early to attend class.

“None of us (Muslim students) want to be here,” Hamud said. “Our families are all having fun.”

Muslims celebrate two major holidays a year – Eid al-Adha (the feast of sacrifice) and Eid al-Fitr. Hamud

compared the importance of Eid al-Fitr to the traditionally Christian Christmas holiday.

“Would you want to be at school on Christmas?” he said.

Mohamoud Hassan, a first-year biochemistry student, said last year he took the day off from high school to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, but this year he had to be on campus. His professor said he could skip class, but Hassan said he didn’t want to fall behind.

Hassan said he wished the University would have given students the day off.

“There has been a rise in the Muslim population here,” Hassan said. “It’s time for us to be recognized, even though we are still minorities.”

The University calendar observes seven state and national holidays each year: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. There are additional floating holidays decided by the University Senate.

Because the University is a state institution, it must go along with national and state holiday guidelines, said Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs.

Biology sophomore Nawal Ahmed was spending the Monday afternoon in the Al-Madinah Cultural Center between classes. She wasn’t able to attend the morning prayer because she had to take a test.

Ahmed said she was “bummed” because she realized too late she had received an e-mail that allowed her to postpone the test until after the prayer.

She said she didn’t expect to be given any exceptions on the exam time or for any other homework because she is not living in an Islamic nation.

Other students said they weren’t given the opportunity to miss class at all.

Sharmeen Mahmood, a neuroscience sophomore, said her professor wouldn’t budge on her exam time and told her that if she didn’t show up, she would miss the chance to take the test.

Mahmood said she wishes people were more understanding of the Islamic religion.

“People think (the holiday) is just an excuse; they don’t think it’s a big deal,” she said.

Rinehart said the University encourages faculty to be accommodating to students’ religious practices. Ultimately, if the holiday is not recognized by the University, individual faculty members make the decision, he said.

Mahmood, Amed and the other students in the Al-Madinah Cultural Center agreed they wished they could be at home with their families – doing anything but studying during the holiday.

Hamud said he was probably going to have to skip his night class and head home to enjoy the special food his family prepares.