New York City schools may close for Muslim holidays in the 2014-15 school year – with the blessing of the new mayor.
Both mayoral candidates are supportive of the idea, with Democrat Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota saying they would recognize Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as public school holidays, according to the New York Post.
“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,” Lhota told the New York Daily News Wednesday. “We’re not going to lose the school days. We’ll have to extend the school days by those two days. But nonetheless those who are Muslim will be allowed to have that day off to celebrate their holidays.”
De Blasio estimated that 13 percent of students are Muslim, telling Muslim groups at a Brooklyn campaign rally Wednesday that recognizing Muslim holidays in schools is a matter of “respect.”
“A child who has an exam on a day that right now is one of the Eid holidays, they’re either respecting their religious obligation or they’re doing what their education requires of them,” de Blasio said, according to the Daily News. “They can’t do both under our current system.”
Some school districts across the United States are already observing Muslim holidays, according to Al Jazeera America which reported:
Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, both in Michigan, allow three days off in observance of the holidays because of the towns’ large Muslim populations. Like Rosh Hashana, the holidays happen according to a lunar calendar, so their dates change year to year.
School districts in Massachusetts and Vermont also close for at least one Muslim holiday each year.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, known as CAIR, has pushed the school district in Montgomery County, Md., to add Muslim holidays to its calendar, according to Al Jazeera America.
“Parents should not be forced to choose between religious observance or the education of their children simply because they’re of a different faith,” CAIR-MD Vice President Zainab Chaudry said, according to a statement provided to Al Jazeera.
Conservative opponents of the idea say it is still too soon after the Muslim extremist-led terrorist attacks on New York City to give Muslims the same accommodations made for Christian and Jewish students.