Monday, June 12, 2006

Muslims Seek Equality On Calendar


When it came time for Imani Al-Amin’s daughter to take a New York State Regents exam four years ago, Amin had a difficult decision to make: keep her daughter home to celebrate the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha with the family or send her to school to take a test that could determine her future. “It’s like having Christmas and being told, oh well you have to go take a test forget the celebrations that are going on. Take the test, you have to prepare for that, then celebrate after,” said Amin. Amin sent her daughter to school, but it wasn’t the last time that state testing interrupted her family’s celebrations. When the ELA exam was first initiated her son was in the midst of fasting, preparing himself for the holidays and Amin was left rearranging the family’s plans. As her son took the test, she realized there was no such thing as rescheduling tests when they interfere with the Muslim faith. Being that the Muslim holy days of Eid-al-Adha and Eid-al-Fitr are determined by the lunar calendar, Amin said there is often some fluctuation with the timing of the June Regents and other holidays but when it comes to the winter tests, where the schedule is set almost identical each year, there is little to no flexibility in rescheduling. Amin and other parents had reached out to their local elected officials for years hoping something could be done. Principals of Muslim schools throughout Queens contacted the State Regents Board to only to hear Albany say nothing could be done, because tests are sent FedEx the day before exam dates. This January when state-mandated exams were held during Eid-al-Adha and Muslim schools across the country are closed, students at the Islamic, state-accredited Razi School in Woodside were disrupted and administrators reached out once again to their elected officials. In response to the community’s distress State Sen. John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights), a member of the Senate Education Committee, has introduced a bill that prohibits the State Regents Board from scheduling required exams during the Eid holiday. The Senator’s bill would benefit both students and school districts: without the need for make-up exams, the students would not have to forgo important classroom instruction and administrators wouldn’t have to make costly and inconvenient alternative arrangements. “With the growing number of observant Muslim children in our school system, we have to recognize their presence and not allow bureaucrats to dictate the dates of high stakes tests to our children,” Sabini said outside the Razi School last week. “The results of these tests will follow these children through college. No New York City child should have their educational future put at risk because of some bureaucrats in Albany.” Razi School Principal Dr. Ghassan Elcheikhali added that the scheduling of standardized exams during both Eid holidays has subjected the students to a very stressful situation. “In addition to the academic impact on the students, it has a psychological impact in which they feel that they are not being treated fairly, especially at a time when we re are trying to urge the community to play a vital role in ensuring the security of our country and to protect and advance the multicultural fabric of this great nation.” Considering the diversity of Queens, Tala Mansi a freshman at the Razi School believes the Regents Board’s decision goes against what America stands for. “There’s millions of Muslims in America and in Queens the population is even more present and if they give Jewish and Christian students the day off from school they should do it for us too, because you know we deserve the same amount of rights,” Mansi said as she watched the senator address parents and students outside the school. “America is a diverse country and that’s what makes everybody come together, so why not.” Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) is carrying the State Assembly version of Sabini’s bill. (photo caption newspg5.jpg) State Sen. John Sabini (speaking) was joined by State Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, Razi School Principal Dr. Ghassan Elcheikhali, Razi School students and various Muslim educational leaders for Sabini’s announcement of a bill he introduced that bans statewide school testing during the two Eid holidays.

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