A Holiday

From the Boston Globe we find that Cambridge schools will be closed for one Muslim holiday each year, beginning in 2011-2012. This follows school districts with similar policies in Dearborn, Michigan, and Burlington, Vermont:

The school will either close for Eid al-Fitr or Eid al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, depending on which holiday falls within the school year. If both fall within the school calendar, the district will close for only one of the days.

In communities with a significant Muslim population, this is appropriate school policy. Of course, the larger questions are about religious pluralism in America today, and more specifically about our cultural perception of Islam:

“At a time when I think the Muslim population is being characterized with a broad brush in a negative way, I think it’s important for us to say we’re not going to do that here,’’ Cambridge School Committee member Marc McGovern said.

Cambridge schools already close for some Christian and Jewish holidays, and McGovern said he believes Muslims should be treated equally.

“The issue that sort of came up was should we celebrate any religious holidays, but there was not the will to take away Good Friday or one of the Jewish holidays,’’ he said. “So I said, if that is the case, I think we have an obligation to celebrate one of the Muslim holidays, as well.’’

He’s right. In a city with significant Muslim, Jewish, and Christian populations, this kind of policy is fair. Bigots and others who are in the thrall of fear will be incensed. But this is the right way to go– it is in the spirit of recognizing the Other (in this case, the Muslim community) as part of us.

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