.
News Alert
UPDATE: Massive Brush Fire Rages In Berkeley,…

Letter: Imam, Teaneck Parent Questions Call for Days Off on Muslim Religious Holidays

Imam of the Nida-ul-Islam mosque responds to a call for Teaneck public schools to close on two Muslim religious holidays.

The following is a letter to the editor: 

Recently, a Muslim organization, the American Muslim Union (AMU), has been advocating for Teaneck to officially recognize the two Muslim holidays of Eid as school holidays. But as the Imam of Nida-ul-Islam mosque and the father of three children in the Teaneck public school system, I question this initiative. The Township of Teaneck, in line with its tradition of tolerance and accommodation, already provides Muslim students with a halal food option, ability to make the daily prayers, join the Friday congregation at the mosque and allows for Muslim students to take off on their religious holidays – and for this we are thankful. The AMU’s proposal in theory, for us, Teaneck Muslims, sounds great. This could be another step in validating the Muslim space in American society. However, as well-intentioned as this goal seems, at best, it is only conditionally acceptable goal – and here’s why.

The Islamic devotional practices and worships are based on a lunar calendar. The Islamic lunar calendar follows the phases of the moon where each month starts and ends with the witnessing of the crescent moon that follows the invisible new moon. Because the visibility of the crescent moon for the following year cannot be calculated with certainty in the present year, the probability of its visibility will span a total of three days.  This means that for the BOE to accommodate the day of Eid with certainty they will have to recognize three days for each of the two Muslim holidays. Logistically this is impractical. Though there has been some interest from Muslim Americans to adopt a pre-calculated calendar in order to more easily facilitate vacations from work and school, the majority still wants to adhere to the traditional Islamic method of moon-sighting.

In Bergen County, the three prominent mosques have an umbrella organization called the Eid Committee of Bergen County. This group was formed after years of dispute and divide within the local Muslim community regarding the start and end dates of our holy month of Ramadan. This caused the Muslims within our common locality to observe the holidays on different days. In some instances, families within the same town, neighborhood, or even households would end up observing the start and end of Ramadan on different days. The Eid Committee was formed to alleviate this problem. In doing so they agreed to follow the traditional view regarding moon-sighting.

If the BOE ends up recognizing the day of Eid it will cause a divide within the Muslim community, as Muslims will feel the pressure to adopt a pre-calculated lunar calendar. This will no doubt cause the discord from the years prior to the formation of the Eid Committee to resurface as the Muslims who want to follow the traditional method will continue basing the start and end dates of the month based on the visibility of the crescent while those who are either indifferent or inclined to the pre-calculated method will adopt the pre-calculated calendar. Though the greater Muslim community in America peacefully co-exists despite this issue of difference, this type of division within such a local setting will have the adverse affects as stated above. For this reason the BOE’s current stance on the Muslim holiday where Muslims students have the option to take off on the Eid is sufficient for our community.

It is surprising that before starting such a campaign the AMU did not at least discuss this issue officially with the valid leadership of the Muslim community for this matter, i.e., the Eid Committee or the Imams of the respective mosques. If the AMU is successful in this campaign I can personally guarantee as the Imam of Nida-ul-Islam mosque, that my mosque and its congregant will continue following the traditional method of moon-sighting and will not be held to following the pre-calculated calendar. 

-- Abdul Muqtadir Sikander

Abdul Muqtadir Sikander is Imam of the Nida-ul-Islam mosque and father of three Teaneck public school students 

Letters may be submitted by e-mail to teaneck@patch.com 

Robert L. Friedman March 26, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Sir you make some very valid points.
Dee Are March 26, 2012 at 01:15 PM
I find this to be a fascinatingly informative letter. The tension between an established and precalculated calendar and a traditional moon-sighting based one is a distinction I was unaware of. However, as helpful as this is in helping my understanding of Islamic calenderical issues (which are, surprisingly enough, of interest to me), it avoids the question of how and why any school should give days off for any group's observances. Is there anything in observance of an Eid that precludes attending school? What percentage of the school would miss classes? Does one have to "prove" that he observes the holiday in order to be counted? And I apply these same questions to Jewish holidays -- not every "holiday" forbids travel and/or writing and, truth be told, not everyone who claims to "observe" the holiday actually has any connection to religion on any other day of the year (or even ON that holiday). Is selective religiosity enough of a reason to cancel school for ANY group? Public education is an important right, privilege and honor in the US. Should it be halted for ANY religious reason (and, yes, I include Christmas in this statement)? I would say (in my own humble opinion) that one would need at least a third of the student population being absent to consider canceling. Otherwise, a vast majority loses the opportunity to learn because we "respect" the choice of the minority not to come to school.
YAS March 26, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Kudos To Imam Sikander. I am a muslim parent who has 3 kids in public school and someone who works with and directly with the BOE AND ms. Pinsak. The district goes out of their way to address the need of Muslim children. As someone who serves in many leadership roles for the PTO the district goes above and beyond the needs of Muslims students who we estimate to make up of 10% to 15% of the population..based on informal inscientific calculations..anyway..as a muslim parent of teaneck public schools I fully support the imams position.
JamesTS March 26, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Interesting letter thank you for sharing. but what if people do follow the pre-set calendar? should there be days off for them?
Silly Sally March 26, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Well said Imam Sikander. As a proud Teaneck resident I stand behind your well thought out Letter to the Editor.
A A Siddiqui March 27, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Imam Sikander is probably one of the most respected Muslim Leader's in the Tristate area and his views are based on the basic teachings of Islam, i applaud him and his tireless efforts to educate the common folk and some of us whom think they know better.
RGordon34 March 28, 2012 at 12:24 PM
wow, its kinda fishy how the AMU went behind the back of the Muslim leadership to push a policy that the Muslims don't even support. We know who our Muslim neighbors are but we have no idea who the AMU is. Who exactly is the AMU and what is their agenda? Maybe DHS needs to get involved here?
b.smith March 29, 2012 at 05:31 AM
Canton fair/ assistant / interpreter / translator / http://www.onlybro.com http://www.onlybro.com Products out-sourcing Comercial assistant for China visit accompany Payment terms negociating Inspection during production and container loading Logisitcs and customs consultation Exports documents checking Web site building Company registration consultation
Judy Distler March 29, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Could be wrong, but isn't an absence for relgious observance considered an "excused absence"? It was wonderful to read this informative letter, and I thank the Imam for writing it and Patch for publishing it.
wise man November 01, 2012 at 04:08 AM
disagreement in the prophet's ranks, eh? heads could roll. literally.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something