Hamilton

Hamilton-area Muslim students call 1st ever Eid al-Fitr celebration at school needed recognition

Over 60 students from two local secondary schools celebrated Eid al-Fitr together on Friday. The event spurred the first-ever Muslim Student Association for one of the schools and the organizer hopes it might inspire school boards to observe such days of significance.

Waterdown and Orchard Park high school students celebrated Eid al-Fitr on Friday and now plan to do so yearly

Muslim students ate doughnuts and celebrated Eid al-Fitr at Waterdown District High School on Friday, May 20. It was the first time the school held an event for Eid al-Fitr. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Hana Bhat said she's been counting down the days for the past two months.

The Grade 9 Waterdown District High School student was thinking about what to wear and who she might meet at the school's first ever Eid al-Fitr celebration.

"I've never done anything big like this with my school friends," she told CBC Hamilton on Friday.

She was among over 60 students from Waterdown High and Orchard Park Secondary School who celebrated together.

Eid al-Fitr was officially earlier this month, on May 2. It marks the end of the month of Ramadan, which sees Muslims fast daily from sunrise to sunset. Eid al-Fitr is usually observed with prayers, sharing of food and communal gatherings.

Farhanna Khan, who teaches food and nutrition at Orchard Park and introduction to anthropology, psychology, and sociology at Waterdown, coordinated the event. She formed a committee and got students involved.

Students thanked administration and staff for helping to pull off the first ever Eid al-Fitr event. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)
Over 60 students from Waterdown and Orchard Park high schools showed up to celebrate Eid al-Fitr on Friday. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

"I want to be able to give them something I didn't have in the school," Khan said.

The public school board has had to reckon with bullying in its schools, some of which has targeted Muslims students and those from other equity-seeking communities.

Khan said she wanted to hold the event to change the perception people have of the Muslim community. The event also spurred Orchard Park's first-ever Muslim Student Association, she said.

Students want yearly Eid al-Fitr event

The students ate, danced, played sports and card games.

There was also a speech and prayer led by students Shayyan Husein and Ayaan Musani respecively. Husein explained why being charitable, bettering yourself and radiating kindness are important.

Sixteen-year-old Orchard Park student Mohammed Asif said he was surprised by the turnout.

Shayyan Husein led a speech for students before a prayer as they observed Eid al-Fitr at Waterdown High. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)
Students held a prayer service at Waterdown High while celebrating Eid al-Fitr on Friday. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

While he said he was eyeing the doughnuts and the basketball court, the event was special to him.

"There's not been a lot of recognition for this holiday so while throwing this party, I'm happy people are recognizing we celebrate it."

Grade 12 student Mehak Ali called the event refreshing because she feels there isn't much Muslim representation within staff.

"It's going to be really memorable," she said of the event.

Aleen Khan, her friend, said the gathering helps school friends celebrate together, rather than only celebrating with family.

Farhanna Khan said she hopes next year's event is even bigger. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)
Students played UNO during the Eid al-Fitr event on Friday. Others played soccer and basketball. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Many of the students at the event said they hope it becomes a yearly event.

Khan said she wants that too and says it'll be even bigger next time.

She also said she hopes it will serve as a model for other schools and may even inspire higher levels of government to have school boards observe Eid al-Fitr and other days of significance. 

Waterdown principal Theresa Sgambato said if the students want a yearly Eid al-Fitr event, they'll get it.

Bhat hopes so.

"Eventually new Grade 9s are going to come to our school and I really want them to have the chance to experience something like this," she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

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