Next week, the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated across the world.
This year’s observance, however, comes at a stressful time for many CUNY students, who must decide whether to attend class or use a religious exemption to celebrate the holiday.
With final exams at Brooklyn College less than two weeks away, Samia Ahmed, a junior who is part of the Scholars Program, admits she hasn’t been able to focus entirely on her studies as she decides whether to ask her physics teacher for a religious exemption next week, so that she can celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
"Eid prayer is usually 8 o'clock in the morning, and that’s also the time of my classes," Ahmed said. "That four hours is really crucial just because we’re coming to the end, with finals. We have a lot of projects and labs."
Ahmed and nearly a dozen other Muslim students attending CUNY met up with NY1 Friday outside Brooklyn College.
For the first time in their college experience, the Eid holiday is being observed during the spring semester, and that places them in a bind.
"We talk a lot about diversity inclusion this year, this school year specifically," Ahmed said. "I just wish we were included and our faith was included in the academic calendar."
After taking part in virtual Eid celebrations last year because of the pandemic, Nasim Almuntaser says the emergence of vaccines will hopefully allow him to spend part of the Eid holiday next Thursday with family and friends.
He wishes CUNY officials would make the situation less stressful for Muslim students and faculty by designating Eid an official holiday, similar to the observance of Christian and Jewish holidays and Lunar New Year.
"I’ve taken summer classes, and I have had to make the decision between jeopardizing my grades or practicing my faith," Almuntaser said.
To address these concerns, a grassroots effort has emerged among several Muslim student associations across CUNY.
Earlier this week, a petition began to circulate on social media that has already attracted more than 9,000 signatures, calling for CUNY to make Eid a system-wide holiday.
Salwa Najmi, a junior at Hunter College, has been a driving force behind the petition.
"Despite efforts of following up,” Najmi said, “we haven’t heard back from the chancellor, but we are more than happy to meet with him any time now to talk about what this could look like this year and all years to come."
In a statement to NY1, a spokesperson for CUNY wrote, “CUNY values the rich diversity of its students and the wide array of cultures and traditions they represent. The University’s policy on religious accommodation enables any and all students to request scheduling accommodations for classwork and finals that interfere with their religious beliefs and customs.”