When our children were younger, we lived in a school district with very few Muslim students. The students, teachers, and school administrators had limited exposure to Muslims and the Islamic culture and practices. In order to avoid any awkward situations, we thought it prudent to share some information on Eid and Ramadan and to let them know our children would be absent during Eid.
Today, many more teachers and administrators are familiar with Islam, and there are more Muslim students attending public schools. But, there is still a lot of misinformation out there, so it may not be a bad idea to start the school year sharing some basic information on Islam with your child’s teachers and school administrators. Some information you might want to share is a basic introduction to Islam; information on Ramadan and the two Eids; dietary needs; the requirement to pray five times a day and the need to pray during school hours; dressing for gym class and the hijab and why it is worn. You can find excellent information on the basics of Islamic Beliefs, Ramadan, Eid, and Hajj on the IFANCA website (www.ifanca.org).
The benefit of providing this information early is to avoid any embarrassing situations like a field trip involving a stop at a fast food restaurant where your child can’t find anything to eat; having to find a secluded place to pray and being late to class because he or she is praying; or being taunted during Ramadan because he or she cannot eat or drink. You never know, it may also help other Muslims. I recall one year my son spoke to his high school counselor about the need to find a place to offer Dhuhr salat. She let him use her office and, after another Muslim student found out, he began joining my son for salat. They ended up becoming very good friends.
Our experience is that teachers and administrators have been very accommodating once they are made aware of, and understand, the needs of our children. It makes the school environment more pleasant for both, the student and the teacher. You also want to take every opportunity to thank teachers and administrators when they do accommodate your children’s needs.
School should be a fun, comfortable place. Eliminating an unnecessary source of anxiety helps keep it that way. Being a Muslim student in public school should not be stressful for a child. Providing some information on Islam at the beginning of the school year will keep it from becoming a place of unease.
A letter is a great way to inform your child’s teachers and administrators of your circumstances. A sample letter is provided below. You can compose your own letter to meet your needs.
City, State, Zip
Dear Teacher / Administrator,
Ali and the rest of the St. Louis Muslim community are currently observing the blessed month of Ramadan. Actually, Muslims the world over are observing this blessed month.
The Muslim calendar is a lunar calendar, with each month commencing with the sighting of the new moon. While this is an astronomically predictable date, Muslims also seek to confirm the calculations with the actual observation of the new crescent moon. Consequently, each month may not start on the precisely calculated day.
After the blessed month of Ramadan ends, Muslims observe a holiday called Eid-ul-Fitr. This is one of the two holidays in the Islamic faith, the other being Eid-ul-Adha. This year, the holiday will fall on March 2nd or March 3rd. As a result, Ali will be absent on one of those days. As I indicated earlier, we cannot confirm the date until the sighting of the new moon, which will not occur until the evening of March 1st.
I would ask you to take this into consideration when scheduling exams and major assignments and also allow Ali to make up any missed assignments without penalty.
I have attached a brief introduction to Ramadan for your reading pleasure. Should you require further information on Ramadan, Islam, Eid, or Muslims, I would be happy to provide it.