On June 30th, 2009, the New York City Council passed a resolution to add the Muslim holidays–Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha–to the public schools’ holiday calendar. Both of these holidays are significant for Muslims worldwide as the first marks the end of Ramadan,the holy month of fasting, and the second marks the end of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. With Ramadan coming right around the corner, the last week in August, I can’t help but remember my own struggles growing up when I would miss school to celebrate these holidays with my family and friends. Many times, exams, group activities, presentations would be scheduled on one (sometimes both) of the two holidays and I would then have to reschedule or simply miss out on something important at school. This resolution would relieve many Muslim American students from having to make that difficult decision.
There is resistance, according to an article in the New York Times, to the idea of adding two more holidays to the school calendar on the grounds that too many days are already missed and that not all religions can be accommodated. Proponents of the resolution, on the other hand, point out that both of the Islamic holidays are floating and many times do not fall on weekdays; for example, this year, it is possible that Eid ul-Fitr will fall on a weekend, according to the Islamic Society of North America. So, is this really a sufficient reason, especially since there are school districts that have included the two holidays in their calendars?
While Muslims are a minority, they constitute a sizeable group that some estimates put at 6-8 million and growing. At the very least, the holidays should be recognized so that exams and important activities should not be scheduled on those days. It makes it even more difficult for Muslim American students to assert their rights to celebrate their holidays, like their Chrisitian and Jewish counterparts, when teachers are not sensitive to their needs to practice their faith and celebrate with their communities.
Do you think that Muslim holidays should be added officially to the public school holiday calendar or be among the national holidays? Should any religious holidays be recognized and why? Share your thoughts.