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CAIR v.s.Christmas:Demands school reverse holiday ban after Islamisation attempt backfires -whines that "Muslims will be blamed"

CAIR uses Christmas as attempt to show that Islam is not different from Christianity
December 4, 2005


MIM: According to CAIR ruining Christmas would be counterproductive since Muslims stress that Islam and Christianity are one of the same and that Muslims respect Jesus (because they believe was actually a closet Muslim !)

Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch had this to say about Ibrahim Hooper's Christmas PR stunt last year :

"Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR has sent around this fresh steaming pile of taqiyya to the mainstream media, and many fish are biting...In it, Hooper tries through Qur'anic sleight of hand (quoting only convenient verses, ignoring others) to convince Christians that Muslims are Christians too, and that Christians and Muslims really believe the same things since the Prophet Muhammad "sought to erase any distinctions between the message he taught and that taught by Jesus."

See: CAIR and the Gospel according to Ibrahim Hooper:




(TAMPA, FL. 11/2/05) - The Florida office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-FL) today called on the School Board of Hillsborough County to reinstate Christian and Jewish holidays recently removed from the 2006/2007 school calendar.

School board members last week voted to eliminate the holidays following a request by the local Muslim community to schedule a day off on the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr.

Speaking before the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, CAIR-FL Central Florida Director Ahmed Bedier announced that his group would officially request the school board to restore the holidays.

Bedier said: 'Reinstate Christian and Jewish holidays even if it means that we don't get our own holiday. . .(as Muslims) we're taught to love for others what we love for ourselves.'


Bedier added that the Muslim community opposed the removal of Christian and Jewish holidays from the school calendar.

FOR BACKGROUND, SEE: 'Hillsborough School Board Members Vote to End Vacation Days for All Religious Holidays,'

CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 31 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. -END-



Religious Observances Should Be Respected

The Hillsborough County School Board's recent vote to drop Christian and Jewish holidays from the school calendar creates a very negative precedent for reasonable religious accommodation in the state's education system.

The Council on American- Islamic Relations, which has been at the forefront of the Muslim community's efforts to have Islamic religious holidays accommodated, is disappointed at the school board's decision to ban all religious holidays, save Christmas.

Because the removal of religious holidays came on the heels of the Muslim community's request for inclusion of their religious holiday, we call on the board to reinstate the Christian and Jewish holidays, even if it means not granting Muslims their reasonable request.

Our faith teaches us to love for others what we love for ourselves. We would love to have our holiday recognized in the school calendar along-side the holidays of people of other faiths. Yet it makes no sense to us that Christians and Jews should be penalized just because Muslims are seeking their rightful place within the fabric of our nation's multifaith society.

For many years the school board calendar matched vacation days with religious holidays. Such holidays were called "nonstudent/non- teacher days" to avoid the perception of violating the establishment clause of the Constitution. This meant that schools were closed on Christian and Jewish holidays like Good Friday and Yom Kippur.

The school board, in deciding to ban Christian and Jewish holidays, invoked the separation of church and state as the basis of its decision. Concerns over church-state separation were not an issue until late last year, when Muslim parents requested that the school board accommodate the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, or festival of the fast-breaking, which celebrates the end of Ramadan. During the Islamic calendar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast each day from dawn to dusk by refraining from food, drinks and sensual pleasures.

American Muslims are recognized both by the U.S. government and the state of Florida as a major religious community. In 2001 the U.S. Postal Service recognized Eid Al-Fitr as part of America's religious tradition by having a postage stamp issued in its honor. Since 2000, President Bush has marked the month of Ramadan by hosting an official Iftar (fast- breaking) ceremony at the White House. This year Iftar ceremonies were held at the U.S Treasury and the State Department. In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush regularly issues official statements recognizing the start of Ramadan as well as Eid Al-Fitr.

The First Amendment clause stating that government shall make no laws "respecting an establishment of religion" ensures that expressions of faith are not coerced by the state. It was never designed to bar religious expression or place hardships on people who want to celebrate their religious traditions.

Allowing students to mark Eid Al- Fitr, Good Friday or Yom Kippur with their families does not imply establishment of any one religion and does not infringe upon the citizenship rights of others. These reasonable accommodations are merely a concrete demonstration of our nation's rich religious diversity.

Many Muslims are asking themselves whether newly discovered constitutional concerns are merely a smoke screen to hide anti-Muslim prejudice.

While a debate over the establishment clause is certainly welcome, what is unacceptable is the associated call for religious exclusivism. During a brief segment on the topic, talk show host Bill O'Reilly called it "absurd" for members of non-Judeo- Christian religions to expect school districts or other government entities to cater to their holiday schedules.

America, he said, was founded as a Judeo-Christian nation. Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair said that Muslim holidays should not be recognized and that anyone who does not like "American" holidays should find another place to live.

The school board's arbitrary and extreme ruling only serves to increase hostility toward Muslims, who will be unfairly blamed for the loss of all religious holidays.

American Muslims are seeking to be included, not to marginalize all faiths. Give Christian and Jewish students their holidays, even if Muslim students are denied theirs.

Parvez Ahmed is the chairman of the board for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil liberties and advocacy group (E-mail:

Parvez Ahmed is the chairman of the board for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil liberties and advocacy group (E-mail: [email protected] Ahmed Bedier is director for CAIR's Central Florida office in Tampa (E-mail: [email protected] ).

This story can be found at:


Board reverses field on calendar

Facing community pressure, the Hillsborough School Board decides a secular calendar was a mistake and restores religious holidays.

By MELANIE AVE, Times Staff Writer
Published November 9, 2005

[Times photo: Brian Cassella]
Tampa resident Cynthia Forde told Hillsborough School Board members, 'You forgot our creator who created you. You've got to change your mind.'

TAMPA - After listening to passionate speeches about God, country, children and tradition, the Hillsborough School Board restored several religious holidays to next year's school calendar, reversing a 2-week-old decision that garnered national attention.

By a 5-2 vote Tuesday night, the board adopted a school calendar similar to the existing one that gives children days off on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the Christian Good Friday and the Monday after Easter.

After 24 people spoke, most of them in favor of religious holidays, board members embraced superintendent MaryEllen Elia's recommendation to restore them to the calendar and study the issue further.

A desire to focus on education rather than the controversy over the calendar was the stated reason for the board's about-face. Four of the seven board members changed their opinion on the holidays, saying many people misunderstood what they were trying to do.

'There is so much emotion around this,' said board member Carolyn Bricklemyer, who reversed her vote but said she still felt conflicted. 'I never wanted to be a part of anything this divisive.'

Even though the district spent a year studying the issue, board chairwoman Candy Olson said it did not conduct the discussion as openly as it could have.

'It was never made clear what we were doing,' said Olson, who also reversed her vote. 'As a result of that we got some bizarre misinterpretations. I think we have some responsibility for that.'

Two weeks ago, a majority of board members approved a 2006-2007 calendar that no longer tied vacation days to religious holidays. The religious days were replaced with time off for Washington's birthday in February and two days near the end of the school year.

The only religious holiday left on the calendar was Christmas, which falls during the district's winter break.

Board members and administrators said the secular calendar, which resembled the one in place for years in Pinellas County and dozens of school systems around the nation, treated all faiths the same and more clearly separated church and state.

They said children could take days off for religious observances without being penalized.

Board member Doretha Edgecomb stood by the secular calendar Tuesday.

She compared the arguments she heard by people in favor of religious holidays to those made against women fighting for the right to vote and African-Americans battling segregation. She said she felt the secular calendar was more fair.

'In our war of words, in our sometimes self-serving stances and too often our very myopic views, we have lost sight of the most important thing, our children, all of our children and their right to . . . an equitable education,' said Edgecomb, who voted against the religious calendar.

Carol Kurdell, who was absent during the vote two weeks ago, was the other board member who supported the secular calendar. She did not explain her position during the meeting.

Tuesday's vote came a year after the Council on American-Islamic Relations requested all Hillsborough students be given a day off for Eid al-Fitr, the end of the 30-day fasting period of Ramadan. The district's calendar committee studied the issue this summer but forwarded the secular calendar to the board for approval.

The only dissent came from the committee's lone Muslim member.

When the board approved the secular calendar, local Muslims said they feared a backlash from people who would view the action as Muslims causing the end of religious holidays for Jews and Christians.

Many of the 3,500 e-mails received by school officials did in fact blame Muslims, labeling them as foreigners not deserving of holidays in the 'Judeo-Christian' United States.

The man who made the Muslim holiday request, Ahmed Bedier, Florida director of CAIR, called Tuesday's vote a 'temporary fix.'

'I'm disappointed but I'm satisfied. We're back at square one,' he said. 'If others are getting their holidays it gives us hope we'll get ours as well someday.'

Most people who spoke at the meeting asked for the holidays to be restored. At least one man brought a Bible.

'You forgot our creator who created you,' Cynthia Forde told board members before the vote. 'You keep saying he don't exist. You ain't the boss. We are. We voted you in.

'You've got to change your mind.'

Retired educator Carl Crosson called the board's initial decision in favor of the secular calendar intelligent, rational and fair.

'Remain steadfast in your decision,' he said.

But Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair, who helped give the issue national attention by criticizing the board's decision on the Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, told board members to restore the Christian and Jewish holidays because of tradition, symbolism and the values they represent to Americans.

'Our calendar wasn't broke,' he said. 'It didn't need to be fixed.'

At Blair's urging, the County Commission voted last week to ask the School Board to restore the more religious calendar.

Like the other speakers, Blair was given two minutes to speak Tuesday night. But later in the meeting he refused to stop talking after being asked a question by board member Susan Valdes.

Bricklemyer chastised him for his 'lack of respect' and said the calendar issue was a local one that never should have played out nationally.

Blair called the board's reversal on the calendar a wise one.

'I'm merely a messenger,' he told board members. 'I'm a messenger with the same constituents that you serve.'


JANUARY 2001: Hillsborough School Board votes to give all students a day off on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Hillsborough is the first Tampa Bay area district to recognize a Jewish holiday.

DECEMBER 2004: About 30 Muslims ask the School Board to give all county students a day off for Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. The board asks administrators to study the issue.

JANUARY 2005: The School Board adopts a 2005-2006 calendar with days off for Yom Kippur, Good Friday and the Monday after Easter. Board members ask the district's calendar committee to examine religious holidays for other faiths.

JUNE: The committee adopts a calendar with no religious holidays other than Christmas. The only dissenting vote comes from the lone Muslim member. The calendar is forwarded to the School Board.

OCT. 25: The board, by a 5-1 vote, okays the secular calendar.

OCT. 28: Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair blasts the School Board on Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor. Florida Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, urges the board to continue the practice of timing days off with religious holidays.

NOV. 2: The County Commission, at Blair's urging, adopts a resolution asking the School Board to restore religious holidays. The Tampa City Council refuses to approve a similar measure a day later.

NOV. 4: Superintendent MaryEllen Elia says she will ask School Board members to restore religious holidays next year while further studying the issue.

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