Muslim Religious Accomodations


Wealth, liberty, and success are universal human rights that America proudly embodies. These cherished ideals serve as the foundation of the nation's prosperity, ensuring the well-being of its people. Preserving the welfare of its citizens is equivalent to preserving the nation itself. The United States is a melting pot of diverse demographics, which have contributed to its unique identity. Consequently, addressing issues related to diversity and accommodation is essential. American Muslims, in particular, have a significant presence, notably within the public school system. Furthermore, this booklet contains guidelines designed to facilitate the implementation of general Islamic beliefs and practices. However, individual applications of these observances may vary.   Islamic scripture prohibits the consumption of certain foods and drinks, most notably alcohol and pork (and any products with pork by-products, including gelatin, in them). Muslims also follow certain standards for all meat, which should be slaughtered and prepared in a Halal (permissible by Islamic law) way. School lunch items containing any of these products should be highlighted clearly. Many schools have been particularly helpful by placing drawings of a pig or a red dot as markers. Schools should be careful not to cross-contaminate other foods with pork. When parents bring snacks for classes, they should be aware that some snacks are not consumable by Muslims. Islam requires that both genders display personal modesty in their appearance. Men and young boys wear clothing that covers up to their knees, when necessary. Muslim women often wear a head covering known as a hijab, or a face veil, called a niqab. Some schools have rules that prohibit head coverings or require uniforms. Accommodations should be made to religiously-mandated clothing and also prevention of bullying or teasing for Muslims who wear a hijab.   Some Muslim boys and girls may wish not to take same-gender communal after-sport showers without wearing appropriate clothing. Private showers should be made available or gym classes should be scheduled later in the day so students can shower at home. Students may also wish to wear more modest gym clothes and schools should accommodate this. In addition, Muslim students may wish not to participate in coed swimming classes without proper clothing, coed physical education classes/dances, or bowing in martial arts. There should be no pressure for students to have to do so.   Similar to how Muslims are required to maintain modesty in appearance, they must also practice it in their behavior.  In Islam, puberty marks a significant transition into becoming a responsible person. Therefore, guidelines are established for how relationships with the opposite gender should be conducted, such as avoiding personal touch and direct eye contact. It's important not to interpret this as an insult, but rather as an expression of personal modesty and respect towards others.   Islamic holidays follow a lunar calendar, and as a result, there is often uncertainty on when certain holidays will occur exactly. There are several days that are important to Muslims, but the two most widely celebrated are the two Eids, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The first Eid day is celebrated on the first day after the month of Ramadan (the month of fasting) and the second is celebrated on the tenth day of the 12th Islamic month. Festivities include congregational prayer, spending time with family and friends, and gifts for children. A typical greeting on these occasions is “Eid Mubarak” (Blessed Eid). Muslim communities around the country would like to see Eid receive recognition similar to that given to Christmas and Hanukkah, especially in schools where Muslims constitute a significant portion of the student population. In schools with a low Muslim student count, schools can refrain from marking students with an unexcused absence when they do not attend school on Eid. In addition, during the Muslim month of Ramadan, Muslims who have reached puberty are required to abstain from eating or drinking throughout the day, or fast. In order to foster a supportive educational environment, some schools invite Muslim students or guest speakers to explain the traditions of Ramadan. This will help Muslim students avoid feelings of awkwardness and isolation for not eating or drinking during the month and promote empathy from other students in the school.   Numerous Muslim students perceive that their faith is portrayed with bias in textbooks. The continued use of these outdated materials reinforces the notion of Islam as a foreign entity and Muslims as enemies. This has unfortunately fueled incidents of violence and harassment committed by fellow schoolmates against Muslim students. As a result, it falls upon the school to take on the responsibility of arranging a curriculum free of religious bias and culturally sensitive by embracing diversity. Inviting Muslim speakers to engage with social studies and world religions classes can contribute to this goal.   As mentioned previously, puberty marks the transformation of becoming religiously responsible for the individual's actions. Consequently, many Muslim families find the topic of family life and sex education a sensitive matter for their children to learn about in school, given that Islam provides a specific set of teachings regarding human development and related issues that ideally be sought from local Islamic centers. Educators are advised to consult their school district or state’s department on available options to parents, like accessing education material and opting out, as these options may vary based on the locality.   Prayer stands as an essential pillar of Islam, promoting a sense of 'God-consciousness.' Muslims observe five daily prayers, two of which—Dhuhr (afternoon) and Asr (late afternoon)—coincide with regular school hours. This practice of worship includes ablution, which involves cleansing the face, hands, and feet with clean water. Consequently, Muslim students require a clean and private area for prayer, as well as a space to perform their ritual ablutions. This right is protected under the First Amendment, falling under the category of the Free Speech/Exercise Clause.   In conclusion, there are various ways the United States can help accommodate religious requirements in schools, workplaces, government, and beyond. The practices described above are important for many Muslim Americans, who now make up a significant demographic in the United States. The accommodations and their applications suggested above should be closely considered by all those involved in public policy on a local and national level, in order to better protect religious freedom and expression in the United States. Sarosh Hussain and Sarah Adi, Journalism Interns

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