The Controversy of Muslim Holidays

During the summer of 2009, the New York City Council passed a resolution that would allow for public schools to be closed on the two holiest Muslim holidays – Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.  The NYC DOE currently accepts holidays of two other religious groups as official “no-school” days: Christians (Easter, Christmas) and the Jewish (Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah); the City Council therefore found it necessary that the Muslim High Holy Days would also be recognized in the public school system.

Considering the population factor, it would be absolutely plausible that this resolution be carried out.  The New York Times estimated that “about 12 percent, or more than 100,000, of the city’s public school students are Muslim.” Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg was “resolutely opposed to the idea,” stating that he cannot close schools for every religious holiday that is observed by the resident of New York – only those with “a very large number of kids who practice.”


(c) Life

This has caused a disappointment amongst the growing Muslim community in New York City.  Some may even interject that Mayor Bloomberg isn’t pushing for the acceptance of the Muslim holidays because of the sensitivity regarding the Muslims amid the crisis of 9/11.  I find this claim without basis and truly flawed; if Mayor Bloomberg was truly against it because of this reason, would he have blasted the critics of the Mosque at Ground Zero a mere two years later1?

The problem with the Muslim holidays, however, may not even be the number of people who practice it.  According to the New York Times, the Muslim High Holy days are “floating holidays.”  They do not fall on the same approximate days each year; Muslims follow the lunar calendar, which is “about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar used elsewhere”2 Jewish holidays, in contrast, usually fall around mid September to early October.  It would thus prove to be unreasonably difficult for the DOE to adjust the school holiday calendar according to the Muslim holidays, whereas it would be considerably easier for the Jewish holidays.  This is both an unbiased and logically acceptable reason.

This is neither a question of favorability towards one religion.  It is rather a question of convenience and logistics in regard to the entire city of New York as a whole.  Although people may criticize Mayor Bloomberg for his decisions, the fact is that he was merely adhering to the legislation that had been established in both federal and state courts.

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