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How Wash. Schools Can Respect Students During Ramadan

The start of Ramadan means Muslims will be abstaining from food and drink during the day for the next month. (raech78/Twenty20)
The start of Ramadan means Muslims will be abstaining from food and drink during the day for the next month. (raech78/Twenty20)
May 17, 2018

SEATTLE — Ramadan officially began Wednesday, which means American Muslims will be fasting for the next month.

Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims, who make up about 22 percent of the world's population. Along with prayer and charity, fasting from sunup to sundown is integral to the holy month. It also includes not drinking water during the day. This can disrupt the school day for Muslim students.

Jasmin Samy, head of the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said teachers and school districts across the state ask her organization for advice on how to accommodate students, especially as they abstain from food and water.

"What that means is be cautious of any dehydration. They might not want to participate in sports,” Samy said. “It's a very holy month. This is where we get closer in terms of praying and reading Quran, so they might not want to join music classes, even though they would be part of it in general."

Samy said students might also avoid the cafeteria during lunchtime.

She said feedback from school districts on these accommodations has been very positive. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has even included on its academic calendar Eid, the religious holiday that marks the end of Ramadan and fasting.

Samy said folks won't offend their Muslim peers if they eat in front of them, although the temptation might be hard for students. She said it's even harder in a state such as Washington where Muslims make up a small percentage of the population.

"They might feel a little bit isolated, and that's why we keep telling teachers and staff, 'Please be aware that this is happening,’” Samy said. “If there are other Muslim students, it's better for them, it's easier. They all get together and makes it much easier."

Samy encouraged people to be sensitive of people observing the month, and added that it's comforting to hear non-Muslims say "Ramadan Kareem," which means happy Ramadan.

CORRECTION: We mistakenly swapped the photos on the two Washington stories today. The error has been corrected, and we apologize!

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA