Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fuzzy Math

Flanked by her two young daughters, Nazma Khan-Edwards sat in the front row during last night's Baltimore County school board meeting to support a years-long push to close schools for Muslim holidays.

Her girls, 11-year-old Shazia and 6-year-old Elyse, needed to be there, she said, so that they could see fellow Muslims standing up for themselves.

"We Muslims have to hold our heads high," said Khan-Edwards, whose family emigrated from Bangladesh in 1977. "It's important for my kids to be recognized for what they are. It's important for us to have the Muslim holidays off to celebrate with our families. Asking for two days is not asking for too much."

The family, including her husband, Robert Khan-Edwards, do not live in Baltimore County but were among about three dozen people who attended the meeting in support of closing schools there for two of the most holy Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Most held white 8 1/2 -by-11-inch sheets of paper with messages such as "Diversity and Equality" and "Got Equality? Let Us Share," and stood while others in their group addressed the school board.

Last week, Bash Pharoan, president of the Baltimore chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, e-mailed about 250 area Muslims to encourage them to attend the meeting. He said he wasn't calling for a protest but planned the show of solidarity as an appeal to Superintendent Joe A. Hairston and school board members.

"I'm thrilled by the number of people who came out," he said after the meeting, adding that each person probably represented about 1,000 Muslims in the community. "It's like writing to your congressman," he said. " One letter represents so many others.

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