Sunday, June 11, 2006

Muslims Seek Ban Of Jewish Holidays

That's the headline in an article appearing in North County News.

The facts of the situation seem to boil down to these:
A Muslim group is demanding that the Baltimore County school system remove Jewish holidays from the 2006-07 school calendar.

The demand comes after a nearly three-year battle between the Baltimore Muslim Council and the school system over adding two Islamic holy days, Id al-Fitre and Id al-Adha, to the school calendar.
Next school year's calendar, proposed May 10 and due to be voted on by the school board June 13, does not include the two holy days. But the calendar does list the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, meaning schools are closed those days.

Dr. Bash Pharoan, president of the Muslim council, said it is not fair for the county to recognize one religion while ignoring others. He said if the school board does not vote to allow the two Muslim holidays, then the Jewish holidays should be dropped.

"This issue is about equality, about equity," he said.
Apparently there are 2 ways of looking at Pharoan's statements--as a threat or a request for equal treatment.

The former view is shared by Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch:
This is not an issue of equality. This is an issue of the dominant culture being made to submit to the demands of a tiny minority. The Jewish presence in America has always been significant; Muslim presence has been nil until recently, despite fantasies about Columbus' crew seeing minarets as they approached the New World. This is an attempt at cultural strong-arming and intimidation, and should be resisted as such.
On the other side is Jewish Times in an article from June 2005:
Rabbi Mark G. Loeb, of Pikesville's Beth El Congregation, agreed. The number of Muslims - comparable to that of Jews in America, if not exceeding it - deserve recognition of their holidays.

"I think if we are a pluralistic community, we ought to honor everybody," Rabbi Loeb said. "It's a matter of showing respect. They're asking for two days. It wouldn't be so hard to [give] two days out of the calendar."
So what is the reason for not adding two Islamic holidays to the school calendar? The Jewish Times quotes Rabbi Rex D. Perlmeter, of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, who claims the issue is one of practicality:
"If Baltimore County schools didn't close on the Jewish holidays, there would be a substantial impact on classroom attendance and disruption of academic flow," he said. "But I don't know whether the statistics [of Muslims in Baltimore County] would bear out the closing of schools. That's the critical question."
But North County News, quotes Arthur Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, who says the issue is money: the reason for adding the Jewish holidays to the schedule is that it was too costly to hire the substitutes to fill in for the observant Jewish teachers-- and the school would add the Muslim holidays when the county had more Muslim teachers and students.

However, the same article also notes, that according to the schools' Web site, the pay for a substitute teacher starts at $59.66 and goes as high as $103.05. Just how much of a financial burden is Abramson talking about?

That seems to sum up most of the issues.

What do you think?

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