On Tuesday, New York City residents will vote for a new mayor. No matter who wins, it looks like by this time next year, all New York public school students will be getting two Muslim holidays off during the school year. Both Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota have declared that they support cancelling school on the Islamic holidays Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, according to the New York Post, “a move advocates have been seeking for years.”
Lhota says, “We have a growing Muslim community in the city of New York and their religion needs to be respected as all other religions are respected.” de Blasio agrees, saying, “It’ll take some time to resolve but I know we can do it.” It shouldn’t be that difficult to incorporate these holidays into the school year, given that “the United Federation of Teachers already agreed back in 2008 to help work out the logistics,” the Post says, and “The City Council passed a resolution in 2009 calling on the city schools system to recognize the holidays.” That’s because “12 percent of public school kids are Muslim.”
The website American Muslim Perspective notes that at least six school districts nationwide already recognize these two important holy days, including those in Burlington, VT, Cambridge, MA, Dearborn, MI, Paterson, NJ, Skokie, IL and Trenton, NJ. Other NJ districts that recognize the holidays include Atlantic City, Cliffside Park, Piscataway, Prospect Park, Plainfield, Irvington and South Brunswick. The district of New London, CT, moved last month to recognize the holidays, and many more school districts are considering adding them to their calendars, including those in Montgomery and Baltimore counties in Maryland.
In Florida, Muslims have been asking to have the Eid holidays incorporated into the public school calendar in Broward County. “There may be test schedules. Sometimes FCAT [standardized, statewide testing] falls in the time of the religious holidays,” Ghazala Salam, community relations director for CAIR in Florida, told CBS Miami. “It really puts a lot of stress on students. They’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Do they stay out for the religious holiday if they have an exam or a new lesson?” Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie said “state law states students must not be penalized for missing school due to religious reasons,” but that if he were to close school “for everybody and every cause out there, even though they’re all valid, we would literally have a problem squeezing in the number of instructional days we need.” New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has used the same rationale for not yet adding the vacation days to the academic calendar.
As is to be expected in an Islamophobic climate, there is plenty of backlash against these types of requests, with bigots accusing “Muslim Brotherhood thugs” of pressuring schools to succumb to their will in an attempt to turn America into a nation of Islamists. But more reasonable minds see this as a reasonable request, which is important in terms of bettering relations between American Muslims and non-Muslims. Recently in New York City, a city bus driver kicked a child off the bus for praying in Arabic. Says the Post, “A 10-year-old Brooklyn boy recited a Muslim prayer in Arabic to help him find his MetroCard on a city bus — prompting the hellish driver to call him a ‘terrorist’ and toss him off, a new lawsuit charges.” If you were raised Catholic and you’ve ever prayed to St. Anthony, the finder of lost goods, you can probably put yourself in this boy’s shoes. Adding Muslim holidays to the New York City school calendar and recognizing the faith as a peaceful one will hopefully go a long way to helping the public at large see 10-year-old children as innocents, no matter their religious or cultural background.
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