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Maryland Public Schools Face Accusation of Religious Discrimination from Muslim Organization

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The uproar over Hajur El-Haggan, a committed math teacher at Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland placed on leave for supporting Palestine.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a charge of religious discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) following El-Haggan’s abrupt leave.

El-Haggan, a Muslim woman of Sudanese and Egyptian heritage, found herself on indefinite leave after incorporating a statement in her email signature: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” 

Despite a nearly decade-long tenure teaching math to sixth and seventh graders, El-Haggan faced retribution for her expression of support for justice in Palestine amid the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.

At a news conference held outside the MCPS Board of Education, El-Haggan emphasized her identity as an American Muslim and an Arab, underscoring her commitment to advocating for justice. 

The actions taken against her contrasted sharply with the leniency shown towards colleagues who expressed support for causes like Black Lives Matter or the Rainbow Alliance in their email taglines.

Maryland’s Religious Discrimination & Fair Practices

maryland-public-schools-face-accusation-of-religious-discrimination-from-muslim-organization
The uproar over Hajur El-Haggan, a committed math teacher at Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland placed on leave for supporting Palestine.

CAIR’s legal defense fund argued that El-Haggan’s treatment violated Maryland’s Fair Employment Practices Act, emphasizing the unequal treatment she received based on her religious and cultural background. 

According to CAIR attorney Rawda Fawaz, the punitive action taken against El-Haggan diverged from the norm within the school district, where similar expressions of social justice had previously been tolerated.

Amidst the controversy, Montgomery County Public Schools confirmed El-Haggan’s administrative leave pending an investigation. 

However, support for her has been resolute, with CAIR Maryland director Zainab Chaudry condemning the marginalization of Palestinians and the resultant surge in hate bias.

El-Haggan’s professional contributions extend beyond teaching, as she has actively supervised extracurricular activities, showcasing her dedication to the school community. 

Her statement underscores her commitment to fostering a supportive educational environment, urging recognition of the experiences and pain of Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab communities amidst the ongoing conflict.

As this case unfolds, it not only spotlights issues of religious discrimination but also raises pertinent questions about equitable treatment within educational institutions, emphasizing the need for fair and just practices that respect diverse perspectives and uphold fundamental rights.

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