MOUNT OLIVE – A group of Morris County high school students is pushing school officials to recognize the Muslim holiday of Eid as one of the officials holidays where schools are closed.
Four Mount Olive High School students are behind the petition, which has amassed over 1,000 signatures.
“We want to spend the day with our family. We want to enjoy ourselves and we don’t want to have any stress or pressure to make up the work,” says senior Shaheer Jawad.
The students point out that many schools are already closed for Christian and Jewish holidays. They say that Mount Olive is changing demographically – with 30,000 residents.
The petition even caught the attention of Mayor Rob Greenbaum, who saw it as a positive thing and posted the petition on Facebook.
“Normally I don’t get involved in school issues,” he says.
But Greenbaum says that the comments on his Facebook post quickly turned negative due to anti-Muslim sentiments and he took the post down.
“When I took it down I started getting attacked from the other side for having taken down the post,” he says, adding that the animosity from both sides stems from national politics in the United States.
But the students say that they won’t let negative comments deter them from their goal.
“I saw some hateful comments that were towards the Muslim community,” says sophomore Hashem Akhtar. “I was kind of taken back by it but after seeing all the other support on the petition on Facebook, it motivated me more.”
“I know that our community is very diverse. I wasn’t expecting much hate at all. I was actually overwhelmed by the amount of support that we got. It was absolutely unreal,” says junior Zain Bhatti.
Other Muslim residents in the community say that they are inspired by the young men.
Mohsin Ansari has lived in Mount Olive for 15 years and says that love outweighs hate. He says local religious leaders reached out to form an alliance when President Donald Trump implemented travel restrictions on several mostly Muslim countries. Ansari says that he wants the students to carry on the message.
“I want them to become leaders of the community. Not just this community, but overall,” he says.
Muslim students are currently able to skip school during Eid without penalty.
The Mount Olive superintendent says that he plans to bring together the committee that plans the calendar and recommend it for a school board vote.
Eid is June 4 this year, but the date changes. The students say they mapped out dates for the next 25 years to make it clear for school officials.