Whitman students advocate against AP exams on Muslim holiday

Sophomore Iman Illias testifies in front of the MCPS Board of Education. She requested that the Board ask the College Board to move all AP Exams that coincide with the Muslim holiday Eid al-fitr.

Courtesy Iman Illias

Sophomore Iman Illias testifies in front of the MCPS Board of Education. She requested that the Board ask the College Board to move all AP Exams that coincide with the Muslim holiday Eid al-fitr.

By Jack McGuire

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The College Board will now administer all Advanced Placement exams planned for May 13, 2021 again on May 18, 2021 to accommodate Muslim students celebrating the holiday Eid al-Fitr, which falls on May 13. The new testing dates will allow Muslim students to celebrate the holiday and have clarity regarding when they will take their AP exams.

The College Board announced the change Nov. 13 after Muslim students and communities around the country protested for the College Board to recognize their holiday.

Typically, AP exams take place during the first two full weeks of May. Next school year, this would conflict with Eid al-Fitr, which will begin at sundown on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 and end at sundown on Thursday, May 13, 2021. 

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting, and is a time of forgiveness and celebration. Most Muslim families celebrate the holiday by giving children gifts called “Eidi,” eating traditional foods and gathering in mosques for communal prayers. 

The celebration is a large time commitment, and many Muslim students were concerned that the holiday would have prevented them from succeeding on their AP exams. 

“Muslim students like myself have to fast all through Ramadan while going to school at the same time,” said Iman Illias, Co-President of the Whitman Muslim Students Association.  “We would have to take AP exams the day right after Ramadan, when we traditionally spend time with friends and family and celebrate.” 

The College Board’s original policy regarding students who missed AP exams would have had students make up the exam at an unknown later date.

Members of Muslim communities weren’t satisfied with this solution because it provided students with very little information regarding when they will take their tests.

“The existing re-test day was not sufficient because it would have been like having a test on Christmas and then having all the students observing Christmas go through the process of making up the test,” President of the MCPS MSA Rashika Rahman said.

Muslim communities nationwide advocated earlier this year for the College Board to change the exam date. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group with headquarters in D.C., also sent a letter to the College Board requesting that they move the AP Exams on Eid al-Fitr to a different date.

Locally, Ilias testified in front of the MCPS Board of Education to gain its support. She said her testimony was an important initial step; however, she thought it was only a small part of a nationwide movement.

In response to Illias’ testimony and other testimonies from members of the Muslim community in MCPS, the Board of Education drafted a letter to the College Board requesting that they create more accomadations for inviduals who miss exams because of Eid al-Fitr.

“[The testimonies] were very compelling,” Board of Education member Karla Silverstre said. “They talked about having to choose between having to celebrate a very important holiday, or going to school to take an AP exam, so I was very sympathetic to the dilemma they were in.”