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Imagine instead of unwrapping presents with family and friends on Christmas Day, waking up early and driving to work, or instead of pulling presents out of a stocking, sitting at a desk for eight hours.

School districts and workplaces across the country and York County alike recognize many religious holidays that afford most people a day or two off. Muslim holidays, however, are very rarely marked in office and school calendars, forcing those who celebrate them to pull their children out of class and take personal time or miss out on celebrating the day altogether.

This is only one of the many inequalities Muslim Americans face, said Rabiya Khan, a local advocate for equality for Muslim Americans.

"There is an estimated some 5 million Muslims in America, and those who are children are for the most part, in public schools," said the York City native. "To have them have to take the day off doesn't seem fair."

Muslim Capitol Day: Muslim Americans from across the commonwealth on Tuesday came together in Harrisburg at the Capitol in conjunction with the Philadelphia chapter of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, for the first Muslim Capitol Day to battle inequality and Islamophobia.

Members of local Christian, Jewish and interfaith communities addressed those in attendance, and Khan was among the speakers.

Khan and her friend and fellow advocate Rabyia Ahmed from Springettsbury Township were inspired to attend the event after experiencing what they felt was a high level of negativity from politicians and media regarding their culture and religion.

"We're Muslim Americans," Khan said. "You're going to be my president too, my leader too. You completely denigrate us, but you want to be our leader? We need a president that is going to talk about Islamophobia, not ignore it or add to the fear."

CAIR defines Islamophobia as "an exaggerated fear, hatred and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes."

"When someone stands up during your debate and asks you what you're going to do about 'the Muslim problem,' it is your job to correct that way of thinking," Ahmed said. "It's a teachable moment, not just for the person who asks something like that but for everyone who is watching."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.

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