Eid Presentation at School Draws Complaints

April 8, 2008


Source: Southern California InFocus


Last December when Kimberly Kanan was invited by her children’s school to discuss the Muslim holiday of Eid during the school’s study of traditions and cultures from around the world, she happily accepted the offer. But Kanan, an active parent of four, three of whom attend the same school where the presentation took place, did not expect the storm of controversy that ensued. Turning to the Council on American-Islamic Relations for an opportunity to clear the misunderstanding, Kanan was able to turn a negative experience into a meaningful lesson for the school as well as the larger community. Kanan, in an exclusive interview with InFocus, shared her journey of the seemingly benign presentation, the fallout and the steps taken to correct the misinformation.

In the presentations to her son’s kindergarten and twins’ second-grade classes, Kanan briefly described Eid as an Islamic celebration that focused on the importance of charity and how it is “better to give than to receive.” She ended by showing the children a picture of the Ka’aba on a prayer rug and passing out gift bags with chocolate money, puzzles, and homemade sets of prayer beads (also called worry beads).

Kanan said that she was very conscious of not implying a religious use for either the prayer rug or the prayer beads. She used the rug as a visual of the historical monument where people gather during the holiday, and the beads, which her 8-year-old twins made themselves, were included as a cultural item. She explained the prayer beads to the students as: “you can just twiddle your thumb on these and it can help calm you down.”