My Journey Creating a Petition to Recognize Eid as an American Holiday
By Z. H.
I recently started attending a civics class in my area at our local homeschool coop. For the final project our teacher proposed that each student create a petition to the government on an issue that we thought was important. For a while I couldn’t think of an issue I was concerned or passionate about. Then I thought about creating a petition to recognize the Muslim holiday, Eid. When everyone was proposing their petitions during class, I found out that one of my classmates had the same idea as I did and so I suggested we work together; she agreed. One of our friends, who had attended the civics class in a previous session, liked our idea and started working with us as well. We, as well as other Muslim students in our community, have been confronted with the conflict between school obligations and religious observances.
This seemed to be a particular difficulty for the Muslim community, whereas other holidays like Christmas and Easter are taken off, and many schools have days off for the Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Since Islam is the second biggest religion in the world and there are approximately four million Muslims in the United States, it seems only fair that the Eid holiday should be recognized in public schools.
We created the petition at www.whitehouse.gov on the page, We the People, which is a dedicated page that the Obama Administration designed to provide a medium for the American public to voice issues of importance to them. Our petition was worded as follows:
“With the growing population of Muslims in the United States of America (including first, second, third, and fourth generation) we believe it is high time that Muslim holidays are recognized by schools throughout this nation. Unfortunately many Muslim families are forced to choose between their children’s education and their religious obligations. 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.”
Once it reached one hundred fifty signatures, it could be viewed publicly on the website. One hundred thousand signatures were needed for it to be evaluated by the White House. After creating the petition together, our group divided up duties to get the word out. I chose to do public outreach, which meant that I had to contact mosques, companies, and individuals. My classmate was assigned to media affairs and our friend to legal affairs. We created an email, Facebook page, and twitter account for our project, which helped spread the word. We had conference calls two days a week and occasional meetings to discuss our progress. Another way we got the word out was having the petition announced at jumah prayers at our local mosque in Virginia where we collected four hundred signatures. We were thrilled to hear that many of the people who came up to sign had actually heard about the petition from other friends and family members.
Word of the project spread quickly across the United States, especially in states like New York, New Jersey, Florida, Maryland, California, and Georgia. People began to post the petition link on their Facebook and Instagram, and soon we had one hundred fifty signatures. Once we had reached one hundred fifty signatures, the petition snowballed, gaining over two thousand signatures a day. Our petition was showing up on websites all over the Internet, and many people were tweeting about it. We were asked to do several interviews and we wrote an article for the newspaper, Muslim Link. On the deadline of the petition we still received signatures, the last number I saw before it was discontinued was sixty five thousand three hundred and fifty six. After our petition ended many other petitions for Eid to be recognized in public schools showed up on www.whitehouse.gov. The creators of one of those petitions mentioned in the text that our petition inspired them and another copied the exact wording of our petition.
Our goal for this project was to bring awareness to the administration about the need of the Muslim American community to have Eid recognized in public schools throughout the United States. We successfully utilized the mechanism of petitions as our civics teacher intended at the outset of this project. We received feedback that the petition did circulate through many networks. We also understand that the White House does not have jurisdiction to legislate holidays for schools and that public schools determine holidays based on school board, county or state legislature decisions. To further the recognition of Eid in the school system, Muslims should know that the schools will close down if there is a fifteen percent absence rate and should collectively join together to have that impact on their local schools. Because this project got so much attention, both negative and positive, I hope that it will inspire other Muslim youth to engage in civic activism to further the full integration of Muslims within American society.
Meet the Author
Z. H. is a fourteen year-old homeschooler who loves sports, especially soccer. She plays soccer in her local league, and also skates, swims, and skis. Her hobbies include doing artwork, knitting, photography and reading, and she has also been playing piano since she was nine years old. Her favorite subjects are history, especially ancient history, English, civics, language and geography. Z and her family are active at a number of local mosques, and she is currently studying tajwid. She loves to travel and experience different cultures, and enjoys cooking cuisine from around the world. She volunteers at her library and at a church nearby where she prepares meals for the homeless.
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