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Governor's council backs holidays for Islamic students

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Governor's Advisory Council on Ethnic American Affairs wants to make it easier for Muslim children to get excused from school on their faith's two most important holidays.

Council members voted unanimously Friday to send a letter to every Oklahoma school district providing the dates for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, explaining their importance to the Islamic faith and requesting that Muslim children receive excused absences on those days.

``This is a very contentious issue in our part of the state, and you have to do it district by district,'' said council chairman Sandra Kaye Rana of Tulsa.

Every school district sets its own attendance policies and decides whether religious holidays are excused or unexcused absences, said council member Malaka Elyazgi of Norman.

``It's our responsibility to let them know it's our holiday; it's a religious holiday. Most districts excuse it, but we want to have something more formal,'' she said.

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Eid al-Adha, which marks Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for the sake of God, concludes the annual season of hajj, when Muslims worldwide make pilgrimages to Mecca.

Providing schools with dates for the two holidays is no simple matter because Muslims follow the lunar calendar, and each lunar month begins with the sighting of the new moon, leading to regional differences in the exact dates, according to the Islam Online Web site.

Council members discussed providing school districts with an approximate date for future holidays, but member Basel Hassoun of Oklahoma City urged them to be more specific.

``Astronomy now is becoming very organized science. They know 100 hundred years from now when it will be,'' Hassoun said.
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