Fifth grader Laila Khan and her parents, Saiful Khan and Neha Shah, celebrated Eid this year by meeting with family and sharing meals. (COURTESY SAIFUL KHAN)

By TALIA WIENER
wiener@montclairlocal.news

The Montclair Board of Education added the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr to the district’s calendar Monday, after a fifth grader’s petition garnered thousands of signatures for the cause. 

“I’m so happy that our community can freely celebrate Eid and recognize it as an important holiday,” Laila Khan, 11, told Montclair Local. “I’m really looking forward to next Eid.”

Laila first presented the petition to the board at its June 2 meeting. The petition, started by her father, Saiful Khan, notes the district gives off for other religious holidays. 

“Think about how you would feel if you had to take an excused absence, knowing you’ll miss a practice test and you will need to take the real test next day,” Laila told the board June 2. “Think about how you felt when you were excluded in any part of your life — that couldn’t have felt good.” 

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Various members of the Muslim community have asked for Eid to be made a district holiday over the years, Board president Latifah Jannah said at the June 2 meeting.

“I’m very glad to hear from a young student,” Jannah said.

All Montclair students deserve recognition, board member Allison Silverstein said, after thanking Laila for speaking at the June 2 meeting. 

“I do feel excluded that Christmas is automatically off but I don’t care about that day, yet my most religious day of the year, I have to take a day off,” Silverstein said at the June 2 meeting. “As a community, this is something we can do to show everyone how inclusive we are.”

Laila had also asked the board to lighten the workload during Ramadan for students who are fasting.

After noticing that friends and family in New York City and neighboring towns had Eid off from school, Laila emailed her principal at Bradford School, Frances Aboushi, who is also Muslim.  Laila said she didn’t think it was fair that Montclair students had other holidays like Christmas and Yom Kippur off from school, but not Eid. 

“There might be many Christians in Montclair but not everybody celebrates Christmas,” Laila previously told Montclair Local. “Even if there was one person in Montclair who celebrates Eid, they still deserve to have that holiday off.”

Aboushi suggested to Laila and her family that they start a petition to garner community support, Laila’s father said. 

Within a week of the Khan family creating a Change.org petition, they had collected 1,000 signatures. As of June 22, the petition had 2,670 signatures.