- (Photo: REUTERS / Jessica Rinaldi)
A small group of Muslim students from the Commonwealth of Virginia have created a petition on a White House website calling for public schools to recognize Muslim holidays.
Posted on the White House's "We the People" site last month, as of Tuesday morning the petition has garnered over 28,000 signatories from across the United States.
"With the growing population of Muslims in the United States of America…we believe it is high time that Muslim holidays are recognized by schools throughout this nation," reads the petition in part.
"Muslim school children and staff deserve the same benefits afforded to the followers of other faiths. We call on President Obama to support this petition and advance the inclusiveness of our great nation."
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman with the Council on American Islamic Relations, told The Christian Post that his organization supported "the recognition of Muslim holidays in school systems" with "significant Muslim populations."
"I think there's been a push nationwide for the recognition of Muslim holidays in school systems. Primarily in school systems where there's a large number of Muslim students," said Hooper.
"This petition is just an expression of that ongoing dialogue and just seen I guess as one way to move the issue forward."
Started by Iman Hazer of Dunn-Loring last December, the petition focused on an issue that has garnered increased attention in the United States as the nation's Muslim population increases.
In New York City, for example, Muslim Councilman Robert Jackson has pushed for adding two Islamic holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, to the public school calendar.
During New York's mayoral campaign, both Democrat Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota supported said proposal, according to a CBN story last October.
"U.S. cities that already have large Muslim populations, like Dearborn, Mich., have added three days to their school calendars for Islamic holidays. Some school districts in Massachusetts and Vermont allow at least one day for Muslim holidays," reported CBN.
This inclusion of Muslim holidays has critics, including conservative activist Pam Geller, who referred to a similar petition created for Montgomery County, Md., public schools as an "Islamic supremacist march."
"How about a petition calling for the end of ethnic cleansing, subjugation and oppression of non-Muslims under Islamic law?" wrote Geller last September.
Hooper told CP that contrary to what critics say, this is not an issue of "special privileges," but rather sending "a message to Muslim students that they're equally valued as students of other faiths and backgrounds."
"There are a variety of ways of doing it. There's floating holidays where you can pick your own and somebody else picks another day," said Hooper.
"There's a variety way of handling it. It's not carved in stone in terms of the same solution for each school district."
The petition for Muslim holiday observances to be recognized in public school calendars was posted on the White House's petitions website, We the People, which states: "The right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. We the People provides a new way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country," reads the Introduction page in part.
"We created We the People because we want to hear from you. If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it's sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response."
For a petition to be guaranteed an official response from the Obama administration, it must garner 100,000 signatures about one month after being posted.
While the Muslim holiday petition has gathered more than 28,000 names, to have an official response secured it must garner about 70,000 more signatures by Thursday.