US School Accommodates Muslim Prayers
Source : OnIslam | 30 Jan 2013
Helping Muslim students to fulfil their religious duties, an American public school has allowed students to perform prayers.
“I’ve been real happy with how we’ve been able to deal with it without it becoming an issue,” Cheryl J. Logan, Principal of Parkdale High School in Prince George’s County, told The Washington Post.
The school has set new regulations to help Muslim students to perform their daily prayers.
Under the regulations, students who obtain parental permission and achieve high grades would be allowed a time off to perform prayers.
Logan opines that the accommodation would encourage students to work hard to raise their grades in order to get permission to perform their prayers.
Currently, about 10 Muslim students at the school are allowed to take time off to perform prayers on campus.
Logan said when Muslim students began praying during the school day some Christian teachers got upset and told the students that “it was a Christian school.”
She said she explained to the students that public schools are not religious, but are legally allowed to accommodate students to practice their religion in some ways.
Under US constitution, public schools are banned from conducting religious prayers.
Muslims pray five times a day, with each prayer made of a series of postures and movements, each set of which is called a rak‘ah.
The five prayer times are divided all through the day which starts with fajr prayer at dawn.
Then prayer times are divided from the time the sun declines, which is mid-day, until the darkening of the night, includes Zuhr (noon prayer), `Asr (evening prayer), Maghrib (sunset prayer) and `Ishaa’ (night prayer).
Experts opine that the accommodations for Muslim students to perform prayers are legally allowed.
The accommodations “are certainly permissible,” Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum who writes and speaks on religious liberty and religion in American public life, told The Washington Post.
He said religious accommodations in public schools vary depending on state law.
Some states have passed laws that allow schools to “simply treat everyone the same way and not give exemptions or special accommodations for religious reasons.”
Haynes, however, disapproves the idea of allowing only students with high grades to perform prayers.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Haynes is also worried that the move would spur calls from students of other religions to ask for a time off to perform prayers.
“And that’s one of the problems with accommodation, of course,” he said.
“Once you start down that road then you really are in a bind.”
The issue of performing prayers at public schools has been a debatable issue in the United States.
In 2000, the US Supreme Court reaffirmed a ban on officially-sponsored prayer in public schools in Texas.
The United States is home of a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.