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Muslim holiday could shift Day of Knowledge celebrations in some schools in Russia

Muslim holiday could shift Day of Knowledge celebrations in some schools in Russia
Traditional September 1 celebrations of the beginning of a new school year in Russia might be postponed in a number of schools, as this year it coincides with the major Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, which sees tens of thousands of worshipers flow to mosques.

Messages about possible cancellations of the first day of school, which is officially celebrated as the Day of Knowledge in Russia, first appeared on social media. Reports concerned several schools in a central Moscow district, where one of Europe’s largest mosques, the Cathedral Mosque, is located.
This year, the celebration of a Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, known as Kurban Bayram in Russia, also falls on September 1. Tens of thousands of worshipers often come to the mosque to celebrate the Feast of Sacrifice Islamic holiday, with many roads in the surrounding area being closed and cordoned off to make way for large crowds of Muslim worshipers.

For the large numbers of worshipers and students not to disturb each other, Moscow’s education department has suggested postponing the beginning of school year celebrations, a spokeswoman for the Council of Muftis of Russia, Gulnur Gazieva, told RBC on Thursday.

RBC also quoted Moscow's deputy mayor on regional security and information policy, Aleksandr Gorbenko, as saying that the decision has been made for both the schoolchildren and their parents, and for Muslim worshipers’ convenience.

At least one of the schools located near the Cathedral Mosque has confirmed that it will begin the school year later, Echo Moskvy radio reports. Its headmistress told Moskva news agency that it is up to every individual school to make its own decision.

“When organizing any events, the school administration must provide security for the children,” she said.

Another school told the radio station that the issue is still being discussed.

The head of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Albir Kurganov, said a decision to shift the start of school year to September 4, which will be Monday, has been made in Moscow and other Russian cities, RIA Novosti reported on Thursday. The news agency also quoted municipal officials of the city of Ufa as saying that "the majority of citizens" have appealed to the authorities, asking them to postpone the start of the school year coinciding with the Muslim holiday.

Celebrations of the Islamic holiday usually begin with a prayer followed by a sermon. Animal sacrifice is part of the Eid al-Adha celebrations, but in recent years the Moscow authorities have banned the practice from being performed on the streets, having designated several locations for the ritual in the Moscow region.

Natalia Demidova, mother of a fifth-grader studying near the Cathedral Mosque, told Govorit Moskva radio that rescheduling the beginning of the school year would be a great disappointment for children.

"It’s simply a disgrace. Children will have a holiday spoiled because of this. How could you build this mosque in the center of Moscow? It is impossible to get to work. The metro cannot be reached. The streets are closed during [Muslim] holidays, even pedestrians are not allowed."

Some other parents, however, were only happy for their children to have extra days off, local media report.