WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — Westerville high schools’ senior celebrations have been moved forward an hour to give Muslim students a chance to eat with their friends.
In the original plan, Muslim students who had fasted all day would have been forced to watch their friends and peers eat for an hour and a half while they waited to pick up that first forkful of food.
That plan had students arriving at 7 p.m. Under that original proposal, Muslim students wouldn’t be able to break their Ramadan fast until 8:34 p.m. leaving them only 20 minutes to bolt down their dinners after they’d watched everyone else eat.
But that has changed thanks to leadership from the officers of the Westerville Central class and a change.org petition that received over 1,400 signatures put together by Jordan-born Muheeb Hijazeen.
“Ramadan is this whole month and our prom is May 8,” Hijazeen explained. “The way we usually had the gala scheduled is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and so we decided to have a petition because it sounded like a difficult plan to move it.”
“We put out a petition after emailing to schedule a conference with our school principal, just to have that extra backup to show the community supports inclusivity,” added Hijazeen. “We had a meeting the next day with the school principal and we talked to him about the reasons we wanted to make this change and why it’s important to take proactive steps.”
“After that meeting, we wrote to the school principals, and that’s when we got an email back that they had decided to move it for all three schools,” Hijazeen stated.
The gala will be a formal dinner, with everyone dressed up in their prom finery. The Prom King and Prom Queen, prince and princess, will be crowned and awards presented.
“I’m confirming after speaking with each principal personally, that we were unanimous in the desire to support and ensure our Muslim students observing the month of Ramadan are able to eat during the upcoming gala,” said the Executive Director of Secondary Academic Affairs M. Scott Reeves in an email. “Therefore, with an 8:34 PM sunset on May 8, our gala’s duration will change from 7-9 PM to the adjusted time of 8-10 PM.”
On Tuesday Hijazeen declared Victory on the petition. But instead of feeling proud, he says it’s a matter of common sense. “We really wanted to allow our Muslim students to also join us at any celebration since this year brought no celebrations at all due to COVID-19.”