Dear Commons Community,
During last year’s New York mayoral election, a number of candidates including Bill de Blasio pledged to add Muslim holidays to the public school calendar. The issue might seem of modest importance alongside deeper concerns among many Muslims in the city, including the Police Department’s monitoring of their community since the Sept. 11 attacks. But the rally, held recently in a public school auditorium in Queens was a testament to how the city’s Muslim community is gaining a measure of political confidence. As reported in the New York Times:
“The meeting opened with a pledge from the podium to try to end, God willing, by the hour of the evening prayer. Clusters of colorfully veiled women kept watch over jittery young children. Rows of men conversed in a jangle of languages.
They were Muslims from Bosnia and Montenegro, Egypt and Syria, Pakistan and Bangladesh — several hundred in all.
It was a gathering remarkable in its diversity from among New York City’s Muslims, a growing group whose members often find it difficult to work together politically because of differences in national origin, language, sect and class. But a single issue has managed to unify them: the push to close the city’s public schools for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the most sacred Muslim holidays.
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.”
This will be an interesting decision for Mayor de Blasio. In 2009, the New York City Council overwhelmingly passed a resolution to grant the days off. But Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg would not implement the idea, saying children needed more time in school, not less.