But some years, she said, her teenagers have rushed from prayer service back to classes.
Her daughter, Hannah, says she worries about missing math and her AP government class. This year, she is on the high school tennis team and will miss a match scheduled on the Muslim holiday.
She also will return to school the next morning to face the PSAT exam, a national standardized test given in advance of the SAT college entrance exam.
“This is an important exam,” says her mother. Muslim students will be celebrating their holiday and “thinking in the back of their head, ‘I need to get my sleep.’ ”
Muslim leaders take issue with the county’s focus on absenteeism as the standard for an official day off. They say they have never been told how much absenteeism would be enough to qualify, and that Christian and Jewish holidays have not been put to the same test.
“We think it’s not right when there are different standards for different people,” Ali said.
Fairness questions resonate with many non-Muslims.
Kari Parsons, pastor of Christ the Servant Lutheran Church in Montgomery Village, said her church’s governing council was asked to take a position — and a majority voted to support the Muslim holiday effort. There are school holidays for other religions, and the Muslim community is large, she said. “It seemed fair,” she said.
Like Montgomery, other school systems in the Washington region — Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince George’s, Prince William and Arlington counties and the D.C. Public Schools — do not give students Muslim holidays off. But officials say students who miss school to observe religious holidays are excused.
Organizers point out that some school systems — in New Jersey, Vermont and Michigan, for example — give students at least one Muslim holiday off.
In Damascus, Hwaida Hassanein, 41, a mother of four, said she faced the same issue when she grew up in Montgomery and now confronts it again with her children. She intends to keep her two youngest, who attend Montgomery schools, home for Eid al-Adha. “They don’t get any other chance for this,” she said. “To me, it’s the religion and the tradition. This is what my grandmother did.”
As she talked, her mother, Mimi Hassanein, a longtime activist, said she hoped for change in time for the next generation. “I don’t want my grandchildren to have this issue when they have their children,” she said.