In observance of the two most sacred Muslim holy days, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, public schools in New York City will be closed on these holidays in future years, the New York Times reports. The nation’s largest school district, with about 1.1 million students, thus becomes the first large metropolitan school district in the US to put the two holy days on the school calendar.
Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque (Royston Kane via Flickr)
Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to be more inclusive in running the city and was quoted in the Times as saying the new policy, which goes into effect in the 2015-16 school year, was simply a “matter of fairness.”
Last summer, the school board in Montgomery County, Md., heard a request from Muslim advocates to recognize the Muslim holidays, the Baltimore Sun reported. School officials opted instead to remove all mention of religious holidays on the school calendar, including Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Easter, and Christmas.
Following that, in Howard County, Md., the board voted in January also to eliminate all references to religious holidays in the school calendar. In Frederick County, the Muslim holidays are already observed.
The Jewish and Christian holidays are still official days off in Montgomery and Howard counties, but the reason school officials now claim the days are non-attendance days is that they anticipate high absenteeism among teachers and students. They don’t mention any religious observance in their published calendars, although dates for holidays may be listed in a separate box in Howard County.
Several other school districts in the US, notably in Michigan, New Jersey, Vermont, and Massachusetts, do close for the Muslim holy days, but the districts in those states are much smaller than the New York Public Schools.
“When these holidays are recognized, it’s a sign that Muslims have a role in the political and social fabric of America,” the Times quoted Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, as saying.
The Times called Mr de Blasio’s decision “a watershed moment for a group that has endured suspicion and hostility since the Sept. 11 attacks.” We agree.
The Eid al-Adha falls on Thursday, Sept 24, 2015, and the Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, falls on Thursday, July 7, 2016, which will be a day off for students attending summer school. Like Easter and Yom Kippur, the dates for these holidays change every year because they’re based on the lunar cycle.