Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday March 4th the addition of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr to the public school holiday cycle in New York City. The decision to add two Muslim holidays to the public school calender is welcome news, not just for Muslim pupils, who will no longer have to skip school to celebrate with their families, but for all New Yorkers who believe that the school system is made stronger when it adapts to reflect the diverse and growing communities it serves. The holidays are Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, a commemoration of the willingness of Ibrahim, or Abraham, to sacrifice his son at God’s command.
For those rigid parents who might think, well now our children are going to miss even more school work! No school days will be lost. As stated by a school district representative The school year will continue to have 180 instruction days; planners will adjust the calendar each year, because the new holidays are tied to the lunar calendar and move around. This year, children will return from summer vacation one day earlier, so they can be off on Sept. 24 for Eid al-Adha.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and school officials said in a statement, adding the holidays was a matter of fairness and respect, an accommodation that Muslim community leaders have sought for years. They said it also was a recognition of the realities of a changing city: In some neighborhoods, school absences balloon on Muslim holy days. Mr. de Blasio and the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, announced the new policy at a school in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where, the city said, 36 percent of students were absent the last time Eid al-Adha fell on an instructional day.
It is worth noting that the new policy, which fulfills a de Blasio campaign promise, is a gesture of welcome at a time when many Muslims are feeling anxious and marginalized, when the actions of extremist Islamists overseas and news network like Fox have fed anti Muslim bigotry and intolerance. Mr. de Blasio’s actions don’t necessarily need to be seen in this global context; but it is a welcome respite and smart call nonetheless.
I spoke with Linda Sosar, a representative of CAIR , a Muslim advocacy group, and she said she was “elated” at the news.“As a New York City public school student, I was marked absent when observing Muslim Holidays,” she said. “As the parent of two public school students, my children have been marked absent for observing our Muslim Holidays. This has been a long fight that I and many others have advocated for many years and am happy the day has come that parents do not have to choose between their child.
Not everyone was equally exuberant with the news, as moments after the mayor tweeted out about the holidays, a growing number of Hindu and Punjbai communities showed their disdain as the mayor excluded Diwali from the public school holiday calendar, despite growing calls by the Hindu community to observe the festival given that hundreds of thousands of Indians living in the area celebrate it. Taranvir Sing, an attendee of Ganesh Temple stated “While the addition of two Muslim holidays is commendable, the Mayor’s decision to exclude Diwali, a festival that is celebrated by thousands of Hindu, Jain, and Sikhs in NYC is beyond disappointing.” It seems even though we are moving in the right direction with equality and diversity in our communities we still have a long way to go.