Muslim Americans welcome first NY Eid school holiday

By AFP
Published: September 23, 2015
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The Empire State building honours Eid ul Fitr by changing their light display to green. PHOTO: ESBNYC

The Empire State building honours Eid ul Fitr by changing their light display to green. PHOTO: ESBNYC

NEW YORK: New York marks a milestone in the fight for equality Thursday when 1.1 million children in America’s largest school district will take the day off to mark Eidul Azha.

It is a small but hard-won victory at a time when American Muslims complain of growing Islamophobia and worsening anti-Muslim rhetoric following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

For the first time, more than 1,800 public schools in New York will close for the Muslim feast of sacrifice, a day after also closing for Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

Read: Muslim students in New York no longer have to worry about school on Eid

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the new policy in March, announcing that New York public schools would get two days off for Eidul Fitr, which falls during the summer, and Eidul Azha, in addition to major Christian and Jewish holidays.

Since then, city hall has added a further day off — February 8, 2016 — for Lunar New Year, celebrated by Asian-Americans.

“It is a huge victory to actually see the day come,” says Linda Sarsour, a member of the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays and a New York activist with three children.

“As an imam as well as a parent I am very happy,” agreed Imam Shamsi Ali, director of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens.

“I’m sure this kind of policy from the government side will push Muslims further to feel a sense of belonging,” he said.

Muslim New York parents previously faced a quandary: keep their children at home to observe the holiday and skip class, or send them to school and let celebrations fall by the wayside.

There are an estimated seven to 10 million Muslims in America, of whom a million are believed to live in New York — about 10 percent of the city’s population.

New York follows at least seven other school districts that close for Eid in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont, but activists are still campaigning in other parts of the country.

Activists hope that embracing Eid in the school calendar will make Islam more mainstream and counter Islamophobia.

Read: Empire State Building glows green for Eidul Fitr

“It’s a very tense time,” Sarsour told AFP. “No one can talk about Islam without talking about terrorism.”

In the last two weeks alone, a Sikh American was so viciously beaten in Chicago and called a “terrorist” because of his dark skin, beard and turban that he wound up in the hospital.

In Detroit, a mosque was refused planning permission and in Texas, a 14-year-old Muslim teenager who is the son of Sudanese immigrants was arrested for building a clock that teachers thought was a bomb.

At the weekend, Republican candidate for president, African-American retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, said a Muslim should not be president of the United States.

Billionaire Donald Trump, top of the Republican polls in the 2016 race, was roundly condemned for not challenging a town hall questioner who said Barack Obama was a foreign-born Muslim.

Then there are daily headlines about extremists in Syria, arrests of American sympathizers and terrorism that many say feeds paranoia about Muslims in the United States.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the country’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization, agreed that the holiday comes at the right time.

Read: Should Eid be counted as a public holiday in New York City?

“Amidst a spike in anti-Muslim sentiment and anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society as we see with Trump, Ben Carson, and the arrest of a Muslim teenager, which sends a negative message, this sends a very positive message of inclusion,” he said.

But if New York sets a precedent, it is still an uphill struggle.

“It was fabulous, oh my gosh!” enthused activist Zainab Chaudry, who was disappointed when Montgomery county in Maryland refused to make Eid a day off and removed all religious references to pre-existing Christian and Jewish holidays.

“It came as a shock to us. It was not what we were asking for,” said Chaudry, co-chair of the group Equality for Eid, a position she shares with a Jewish council member.

Sadyia Khalique, director of operations for CAIR in New York, said there is “a huge problem” with Islamophobia in the United States but that the holiday could help change that.

“We’ve never had accommodation in the way we do now, recognition of our religion and also to celebrate it,” she said.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • James
    Sep 23, 2015 - 3:05PM

    Hope Islamic countries will learn some lessons and declare Christmas as Holidays in their respective countries….Recommend

  • Human
    Sep 23, 2015 - 4:22PM

    Yes I agree . Christmas New year & Easter holidays here too in Pakistan .Recommend

  • Sohail Ahmed
    Sep 24, 2015 - 3:56AM

    @James:
    Christmas a national holiday in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Parveen Sultana
    Sep 24, 2015 - 7:03AM

    This is great news indeed, hopefully they will be allowed to slaughter animals on the streets lik they do in Pakistan. Non muslims can take part too and learn about our great religion Islam!Recommend

  • Jaishanker
    Sep 24, 2015 - 7:06AM

    @James, you know that is not going to happen. In fact Saudi Arabia you are not even allowed to bring in a Holy Bible forget about getting Christmas holiday.Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Sep 24, 2015 - 7:47AM

    @James: Christmas is already a holiday over there, I am from Egypt and Christmas day is an official day off.Recommend

  • Louie
    Sep 24, 2015 - 8:52AM

    @james Christmas, New Year, and Easter (Western and Eastern) are celebrated in many Islamic countries including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordon, Egypt to name a few.

    @jaishanker, please don’t use Saudi Arabia as an example, it is an exception.Recommend

  • S.James
    Sep 24, 2015 - 9:40AM

    @James: LOL! Easter, Christmas, are national holidays in Indonesia (over 200 million muslims live there) also in Pakistan and Malaysia… Turn off Fox News and go travel. Go to the mall in Abu Dhabi or Dubai during Christmas, you’ll see hijabis happily taking selfies with Santa Claus. Recommend

  • Amir
    Sep 24, 2015 - 9:50AM

    @Jaishanker: comparing US and Saudi arabia is not apple to apple. US is not christian country. Why not compare with Vatican or Israel. Is there islamic celebration there?Recommend

  • Sep 24, 2015 - 11:35AM

    @James: I don’t see the problem, because we have a Christmas holiday on the 25th of December of every year. Hajj and Eid Mubarak to you. SalamsRecommend

  • Abdul Muiz
    Sep 24, 2015 - 11:52AM

    I am an Indonesian, and yes we do celebrates holidays of all religions including Hindu and Buddha. We are not moslem country but majority of our population are moslem. We tolerate all religions, we make friends, we work together, we have families with different religions and that’s okay because we are okay with diversity!!
    Have a good day and happy Iedul Adha for those who celebrate it..Recommend

  • fazel
    Sep 24, 2015 - 4:24PM

    I am sorry to say that Saudi Arabia dose not represent Muslims… At the same time they are practicing unislamic things in there country .. They dnt like even muslims talkless christians or hindu or Buddha They are disgrace to the Muslim word ..Recommend

  • Ahmad Sabri
    Sep 24, 2015 - 7:02PM

    AlhamdulillahRecommend

  • Sheikh Jahid
    Sep 24, 2015 - 10:12PM

    It’s a great achievement Muslim world being recognized a holiday on the day of eid.n.y.
    As resident of Atlanta , we are waiting for this date.Recommend

  • Imran
    Sep 25, 2015 - 1:29AM

    @James. Your ignorance needs no introductionRecommend

  • Waheedah
    Sep 25, 2015 - 6:02AM

    Allah is the greatest.Recommend

  • observer
    Sep 26, 2015 - 7:44AM

    @Amir:

    ” US is not christian country”

    Over 80% of Americans are Christians.

    According to you, once a Muslim country declares itself as a Islamic theocratic country it is justified in not accommodating other faiths?Recommend

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