Local Time

Sunday, January 15, 2006

French Students Curious Over "`Eid Absence"

By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent

PARIS, January 13, 2006 (IslamOnline.net) - `Eid celebrations of Muslims students in France and their school absence during the festival have raised questions among their non-Muslim schoolmates on the nature of `Eid and the accompanying celebrations and rituals during the occasion.

"Why our Muslim friends Mohamed, Amani and Omar are absent during `Eid?" questioned some non-Muslim students.

Others wonder about the Muslim celebrations of `Eid and whether they have "Saint Claus" celebrations similar to the one of non-Muslims.

"These questions are repeatedly asked by French students in schools, institutes and kindergartens during the first two days of `Eid Al-Adha," IslamOnline.net Correspondent says.

The Muslim minority in France, along with other Muslims worldwide, has celebrated `Eid Al-Adha Tuesday, January 10.

France has an estimated Muslim minority of six million, the largest Muslim minority in Europe.

Festival

Many young students ask their teachers about reasons that make Muslim students dump classes during the `Eid festival.

"We attempt to explain to French young children that `Eid Al-Adha is an important festival for Muslims, during which all family members should meet together," Beatrice Mlaire, a kindergarten teacher told IOL Friday, January 13.

"We also give a short definition on `Eid and the Muslim ritual of sacrificing sheep, but without making it a topic of discussion, because it is prohibited under French secularism."

A financially-able Muslim sacrifices a single sheep or goat or shares six others in sacrificing a camel or cow as an act of worship during `Eid Al-Adha.

The ritual reminds Muslims of the great act of sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma`eel were willing to make for the sake of God.

"Ghost Places"

Schools which have a heavy attendance of Muslim students seemed like "ghost places" during `Eid due to the absence of the Muslim students.

John Beatrice Omfer, a professor of French literature, said schools which have heavy Muslim attendance were turned into "ghost places" during the Muslim festival.

"Only eight out of 25 students showed up in classes in the first day of `Eid," said Omfer, who teaches French literature in an institute in the city of Montfrin.

"This is understandable, especially in the highly Muslim-populated areas."

Omfer, however, said that some non-Muslim schools took advantage of the Muslim occasion and absent themselves from attending schools as well.

Two days before `Eid Al-Adha, the French education ministry urged schools to avoid holding exams during the Muslim `Eid celebrations.

"Parents of Muslims students usually inform school headmasters that their sons will be absent from attending classes during `Eid," Muslim activist Mahraziya Ma'eza told IOL.

She stressed that the move helps cement ties between the French Muslims and other members of French society.

"In some cases, we get messages from school masters and teachers wishing French Muslims happy `Eid celebrations."

Debate

Absence of French Muslim students from attending schools during `Eid has sparked a debate over making the Muslim festival an official holiday.

French TV channel LCI hosted a discussion attended by a group French Muslim activists on declaring `Eid Al-Adha a national occasion.

But most of the callers objected to making the Muslim `Eid as a French national day.

Late December 2003, French President Jacques Chirac dropped a suggestion for making the Muslim `Eid Al-Adha and the Jewish Yom Kippur as state holidays for Muslims and Jewish students respectively in government schools.

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