The Sheer Number of Muslim Students in NYC Schools Should Be Reason Enough To Recognize Muslim Holidays

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shutterstock_114824581__1397844375_142.196.167.223With 10 percent of NYC public schools students being Muslim and 95 percent of Muslim students in public school – the push to recognize Muslim religious holidays makes sense.

I grew up in a town where schools did not recognize Jewish holidays. The only religious holidays we observed where Christmas and Easter. To a student in NYC, not recognizing a Jewish holiday would be unheard of. To those who would question recognizing a Muslim religious holiday – the numbers are there. There are so many Muslim students attending public school – why should they be forced to choose between observing their holidays or attending school?

Many people are opening their eyes to the necessity of making the school calendar more inclusive:

In 2013, for example, the Arab American Association of New York and the Islamic Center at New York University sponsored a debate among the mayoral candidates. In answer to a child’s question, all of the candidates present, including Mr. de Blasio, pledged to close the schools for the Muslim holidays; the Republican candidate, Joseph J. Lhota, later followed suit. The moment was freighted with emotion for many Muslims.

The question is, how do you deal with addressing all religious holidays in a city like New York?

Eid al-Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan, the sacred month of fasting, and Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims traditionally observe these days by praying in the morning, then celebrating with family and friends, exchanging gifts and sharing a large meal. The campaign is asking for one day off for each holiday when it falls on a school day. But the request is complicated in part because other religious and ethnic groups in the city are pressing for their own days off, too.

Clearly, there are a lot of logistic and budgetary components to take into consideration, but I think the issue of religious inclusion is important – especially with the sheer numbers of Muslims in NYC. If we are going to observe any religious holidays, than why not make it more fair across the board? It’s time we start paying attention to the actual cultural and religious landscape of America – not everyone practices Christianity.

Fadilah, 15, a 10th grader at Harlem Village Academy, said last year was the first time she did not have to worry about missing tests or homework when the holiday fell on a school day. “It meant that they understood that our religion was important to us and that they cared about us,” she said.

(photo: Syaheir Azizan/ Shutterstock)