Local school accommodates students during Ramadan

CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A local school has designated rooms for prayer, hoping to accommodate Muslim students during Ramadan.

Some concerned parents worry it will interfere with the learning day.

“One and sometimes two of their five daily prayers happen to be when they are at school because one of the requirements upon Muslims is that they have to do their best to pray the prayer on time,” Djafer Sebkhaoui, Imam at the Al Hidaya Center, said.

Sebkhaoui says he has requested that school students in the Muslim community of Troy and Latham he represents be accommodated when it comes to religious prayer.

Recently, the Shenendehowa School District, at the request of Muslim students, have designated two rooms during the holy month of Ramadan where those students can pray.

“All what you are talking about is maybe a designated space where students will be able to have some sort of privacy where either they will read from the Koran or maybe pray if it is time for the prayer.”

Officials with the school district declined to go on camera.

A spokesperson said the rooms are available to all students to use and it does not violate any law because the school is not mandating or encouraging prayer or any religion. The school says it will not interfere with education.

“I think there is enough time for students to find the most appropriate time maybe during a break where they will be able to do that prayer without really compromising their classes.”

One email from a concerned parent was sent to NEWS10 on the issue and more comments of concern on our Facebook Page:

“Whatever happened to separation of church and state this violates that ruling.”

“This is establishing a religion and violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.”

“Uhh…there’s something wrong with this. This needs to be stopped!”

“I hope people will try to put themselves in our shoes and see it from the perspective of Muslims as they practice their faith daily,” Sebkhaoui said.

A spokesperson for Shenendehowa School District Kelly DeFeciani said that because of the negative attention that these two set aside rooms have garnered some of the students she believes may not use the rooms now. She was disappointed by that and also said those students are already bullied here at school.

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