Schools should embrace Ramadan as well as Christmas?
SCHOOLS that celebrate Christmas should also embrace other non-Christian religious festivals, Muslim leaders say. Keysar Trad, president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, called on the Victorian Education Department to include the traditions of other religious faiths as part of the formal school curriculum.
"Schools have religious programs - but generally they're elective, they're not compulsory," he said. "To have an awareness of these festivals can be very enriching for all students, including people who go to secular schools."
His comments follow Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu's recent move to protect Christmas celebrations at state schools so that all children can enjoy the "simple pleasures" of the holiday.
Mr Trad called on Mr Baillieu to extend the same level of support to other religions as well. "When the Premier of the state makes a statement in that manner, one can't help but feel that he is giving an official stamp to one religion to the exclusion of the other," he said. "To be a Premier for all Victorians, I look forward to his instructions to schools to teach about the important religious festivals for all faiths."
Mr Trad added that Muslim people should be able to take leave from work during Eid, the three-day holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.
Sherene Hassan, vice-president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, also endorsed the incorporation of Ramadan and other religious festivals in the classroom. "Conversations about increasing awareness of different cultures and religions are already taking place and have been happening for some time among educators," she said. "The ICV believes this is a positive way of fostering respect between children."
Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem, spokesman for the Australian National Imams' Council, said that schools could hold anything from lessons to full-blown celebrations, depending on the number of pupils of that particular faith. "Christmas here is celebrated, although the majority of Australians are not Christians but probably consider themselves to be secularists or atheists," he said. "Exposure to other cultures in a multi-racial country is a good thing, especially in schools."
Mr Baillieu and the Victorian Education Department declined to comment when contacted by the Herald Sun.