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Long Island School Board Votes Against Adding Muslim Holidays To Calendar

HEWLETT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A Long Island school board has voted against adding two Muslim holidays to its calendar.

Some question whether an anti-Muslim text message circulating throughout the Hewlett-Woodmere community led to the decision.

According to CAIR-NY, a Muslim advocacy group, the message sent last week ahead of a Board of Education meeting warned residents "observance of a Muslim holiday will draw other religious Muslims to the area, which eventually would make our houses value go down, as no decent person would want to buy a house next to that. The demographics will change and our properties will be worthless.

The message encouraged the community to attend the meeting to vote against the holidays.

During another Board of Education meeting held earlier in the month to discuss the issue, CAIR-NY claims one Muslim community member was called a "terrorist" and references were made to the 9/11 terror attacks.

The school board in a statement said they condemn the hurtful and inappropriate comments.

"These comments have no place in any setting particularly at school board meetings of a district that celebrates its diversity," the statement read in part. "The Hewlett-Woodmere school board and its administration is committed to maintaining an environment that recognizes the inherent worth and dignity of every student and resident."

Shanaz Mallik, who started the petition to add the Muslim holidays, said she was horrified by the derogatory comments.

"I was overwhelmed, I was shocked," said Mallik. "Even though I have lived here for so long people really do not accept us as peaceful people."

The grandmother of two said she wants all Muslim children to be able to to enjoy the holidays -- Eid al-Fitr (the end of the holy month of Ramadan) and Eid al-Adha (the Feast of the Sacrifice) -- without having to worry about school work.

"These are the two major holidays that Muslims celebrate all over the world, and I think it's very important for them to be able to celebrate like it's of other faith," Mallik said.

The school explained the holidays were not added to the calendar because "the board exercised its discretion and determined that insufficient secular purpose would be achieved by closure on these days. We were advised by counsel that such a decision was legally permissible.  However, we recognize, accommodate, and support every Hewlett-Woodmere student's absolute right to absent themselves from school on religious holidays."

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