Hindus are urging closure of all—public, charter, private, parochial— schools in Alameda County (California) on their most popular festival Diwali.
Alameda County is home to 18 Unified School Districts of public schools: Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Dublin, Emery, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore Valley Joint, Mountain House, New Haven, Newark, Oakland, Piedmont, Pleasanton, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Sunol Glen.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that it was simply not fair with Hindu pupils in schools in Alameda County, as they had to be at school on their most popular festival; while Alameda County schools were closed around commemoration of other religious days.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stated that since it was vital for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home with their children; closing schools on Diwali would ensure that and would also display how respectful and accommodating these schools were to their faith.
Rajan Zed indicated that holiday on Diwali in Alameda County schools would be a step in the positive direction in view of the reported presence of a substantial number of Hindu students; as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of Hindu pupils.
If schools had declared holidays around other religious days, why not Diwali, Zed asked. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Zed added.
Rajan Zed suggested all Alameda County schools to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday, thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. Zed noted that awareness about ‘other’ religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make their students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.
Zed urged superintendents and board presidents of all the 18 school districts in Alameda County to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in their schools.
Zed also sought the support of California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Keith Carson,
Alameda County Office of Education Superintendent L. K. Monroe and its Board President Aisha Knowles in persuading public, charter, private, parochial schools of Alameda County to declare Diwali as holiday.
Rajan Zed further says that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus. Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Diwali falls on October 24 this year.
Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the USA.