The Sheer Number of Muslim Students in NYC Schools Should Be Reason Enough To Recognize Muslim Holidays

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shutterstock_114824581__1397844375_142.196.167.223With 10 percent of NYC public schools students being Muslim and 95 percent of Muslim students in public school – the push to recognize Muslim religious holidays makes sense.

I grew up in a town where schools did not recognize Jewish holidays. The only religious holidays we observed where Christmas and Easter. To a student in NYC, not recognizing a Jewish holiday would be unheard of. To those who would question recognizing a Muslim religious holiday – the numbers are there. There are so many Muslim students attending public school – why should they be forced to choose between observing their holidays or attending school?

Many people are opening their eyes to the necessity of making the school calendar more inclusive:

In 2013, for example, the Arab American Association of New York and the Islamic Center at New York University sponsored a debate among the mayoral candidates. In answer to a child’s question, all of the candidates present, including Mr. de Blasio, pledged to close the schools for the Muslim holidays; the Republican candidate, Joseph J. Lhota, later followed suit. The moment was freighted with emotion for many Muslims.

The question is, how do you deal with addressing all religious holidays in a city like New York?

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. But the request is complicated in part because other religious and ethnic groups in the city are pressing for their own days off, too.

Clearly, there are a lot of logistic and budgetary components to take into consideration, but I think the issue of religious inclusion is important – especially with the sheer numbers of Muslims in NYC. If we are going to observe any religious holidays, than why not make it more fair across the board? It’s time we start paying attention to the actual cultural and religious landscape of America – not everyone practices Christianity.

Fadilah, 15, a 10th grader at Harlem Village Academy, said last year was the first time she did not have to worry about missing tests or homework when the holiday fell on a school day. β€œIt meant that they understood that our religion was important to us and that they cared about us,” she said.

(photo: Syaheir Azizan/ Shutterstock)


  1. Paul White

    April 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    At some point it won’t work for parents though. If you have a significant enough population of Muslim, Jewish, and Christians that you start to recognize ALL those holidays at school, parents with jobs are soooo screwed.

    • CrazyFor Kate

      April 18, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      Not to mention the kids would be missing a lot more school time, and would have to make it up later! I would favor more accommodations for students who miss school due to holidays, like lizinthelibrary suggested above. And that goes for people at work, too.

    • Paul White

      April 18, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      I kinda think it makes the most practical sense. I mean, what else can you do? You can’t just shut down everytime someone somewhere in your city has a religious holiday.

    • rrlo

      April 18, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      No, that would be absurd! In my high school we had kids who celebrated Orthodox Christmas, Chinese New Year, several Pujas, Eid and probably half a dozen other things. If the school shut down for each of those events, we would never get anything done! I imagine NYC would be similar.

    • Kendra

      April 18, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      Truth. Daycare is closed today & Monday but mama still has to work!

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      April 18, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      Did you leave your kids waiting in the car?

    • Paul White

      April 18, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      Nah, the dog pound was sitll open

  2. lizinthelibrary

    April 18, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    My school district growing up had a decent sized population of Jewish students. While schools weren’t closed on Jewish holidays, there was a district policy forbidding tests, quizzes, or major assignments to be due on Jewish holidays. Perhaps that could be a compromise?

    • TwentiSomething Mom

      April 18, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      That seems like a fair compromise.

    • brebay

      April 18, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      You’d have to just do something generic, though, like giving every kid 5 freebies for a late assignment over the course of the year. Otherwise, religious students (of any religion) are getting something that non-religious kids aren’t.

    • lizinthelibrary

      April 18, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      The way it worked for us is that there were no tests, quizzes, etc for any student on those days. So the Jewish children could miss classes without making up tests though of course they still missed instruction. And kids of all religions benefited. It was only about half a dozen days that didn’t really impact teacher planning. Could be doable to add in the Muslim holidays as well. It also helped to remind teachers “many kids will be absent this day perhaps I shouldn’t start a giant new unit/concept” when doing planning. Not that we did nothing.

    • rrlo

      April 18, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Instead of late assignments/tests, in our school the kids observing a holiday would take a test/ submit assignment the day before. I think that eliminates any issues of unfairness.

    • rrlo

      April 18, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      High school was a long time ago, but we usually coordinated to have the test or assignment hand in a day early – if it happened to fall on a particular holiday.

      I think as long as cultural sensitivity and inclusiveness is taken seriously by the school and the students, these types of things rarely cause a problem.

    • ted3553

      April 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      that’s how my school handled religious holidays that weren’t recognized. No big deal.

  3. Kendra

    April 18, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    All I know is that it’s Good Friday and I am pretty sure I am the only one at work. I might be a little bit bitter about more people getting holidays and me still not getting any!!! RAAAAGGGEEE!

    • Mystik Spiral

      April 18, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      I’m at work. πŸ™‚

      In fact, I’ve never had a job where I got Good Friday off, except when I worked at a stock broker firm. I’m still amazed that the stock market, of all things, is closed on such a non-holiday.

    • Kendra

      April 18, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      Me neither. I’m clearly taking up the wrong positions. I have no idea why college me didn’t go with Teacher or Banker.

    • shel

      April 18, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      Me threether… Working all day today.. and we’ve been extra busy, since the kids aren’t in school.
      But up until last year, I worked most holidays- xmas, new years, 4th of july, easter… which definitely meant we were also open on all the other ‘government’ holidays- presidents day etc. The hospital doesn’t close… ever…

    • Kendra

      April 18, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      There should be a holiday only for people who don’t get all these other holidays off. “Sorry you picked a shitty job” Day.

    • lizinthelibrary

      April 18, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      My mother’s firm, which was owned by a Jewish family, always gave her Good Friday off which amused her.

    • CW

      April 19, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      My husband used to cover for his Jewish colleague on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and his colleague would cover for DH on Good Friday and St. Patrick’s Day (which is not strictly religious but might as well be to Irish-Americans).

    • CW

      April 19, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      My husband used to cover for his Jewish colleague on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and his colleague would cover for DH on Good Friday and St. Patrick’s Day (which is not strictly religious but might as well be to Irish-Americans).

    • AP

      April 19, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      Evacuation Day! Boston’s close-the-city historical holiday honoring the evacuation of Boston during the Revolutionary War that just oh-so-happens to fall on March 17.

    • Byron

      April 18, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      Good Friday is SERIOUS shit in some parts of the world. Especially for Orthodox Christians. In Greece there’s 4th of July / Martigras sized parades all over and fireworks and a special nationwide holy fire event thing. Suffice it to say you won’t get anything done even if you tried that day.

    • TwentiSomething Mom

      April 18, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      I’m at work too, sadly my company is stingy with holidays.

    • Rachel Sea

      April 18, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      I’ve never heard of anyone taking Good Friday off, although apparently investment firms do it, because I can’t do anything with my company’s 403(b) today, to the chagrin of many.

    • jec

      April 19, 2014 at 3:43 am

      Good Friday is a public holiday in Australia and just about EVERYTHING closes. Then the day after Easter is a public holiday (“Easter Monday”) purely on the basis that Easter Day falls on a Sunday, so we get the next day off. Seriously. If the government tried to change Good Friday & Easter Monday, there would be an uprising, I think.

    • Kigs

      April 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Ha, everything expect my work -_- damned small, family owned business realizing we’ll sell more food on days other places are closed!

    • pixie

      April 20, 2014 at 12:05 am

      It’s a stat holiday up here in Canada, so only Starbucks, other fast food places, and a few drugstores are open (with reduced hours, though). “Easter Monday” is not a stat holiday, though.

    • Paul White

      April 18, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      I can’t believe I got it off, personally, but I never complain about a day off.

    • CrazyFor Kate

      April 19, 2014 at 7:27 am

      I don’t get a single day off. Even on Easter Sunday. In Russia. Apparently it’s not a public holiday. And my work decided to stick me with a seven-day schedule in the meantime, so I don’t even get my regular days off. Fuck my company.

  4. brebay

    April 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    How about we let kids celebrate holidays at home, and teach them things at school.

    • EmmaFromΓ‰ire

      April 19, 2014 at 8:07 am

      Then schools should stop closing for easter and christmas. Holidays at home right?

    • keetakat

      April 19, 2014 at 9:55 am

      They can close for Winter and Spring breaks. It is a great way to cover all the bases and remain unbiased.

    • brebay

      April 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      absolutely! They could loosen up the absence policy, give you X number of days. Odds are, most kids will take theirs at those times, and teachers as well, so they’d end up closing over Christmas and Easter anyway.

    • AP

      April 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      A lot of places holiday policies have to do with staffing and attendance. If enough teachers and enough kids don’t show up, no work gets done, and then parents who don’t celebrate the holiday will start keeping their kids home because there’s no reason to go to school.

      My district growing up was like that with snow days. They’d call a snow day based on the predicted weather at dismissal, even if it wasn’t yet snowing in the AM, knowing that if the forecast for dismissal was rotten, teachers would call in and parents would keep their kid at home to avoid a dangerous trip home.

    • CW

      April 19, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      Easter is always on Sunday. The better example would be Good Friday.

    • Lulu

      April 19, 2014 at 10:56 pm

      Don’t be pedantic, kids are usually given a long weekend, if not more.

    • CW

      April 19, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      Easter is always on Sunday. The better example would be Good Friday.

  5. Rachel Sea

    April 18, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    When I was a kid, if you had a religious holiday that your parents wanted you to observe, they took you out of school, and you were required to make up the work. Teachers weren’t allowed to penalize students if they turned in assignments, or took a test late because of a religious observance.

    It seems like the tyranny of the majority to close schools for every religious holiday observed by x% of the student body to the inconvenience or exclusion of the non-observant.

  6. Butt Trophy Recipient

    April 18, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Maria I LOVE MUSLIMS Guido fights for equality of all religions!

  7. rrlo

    April 18, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    As a Muslim person, while growing up in Canada – we were always allowed to miss school on the religious holidays – it was a legitimate excuse. Some families celebrate the religious holidays more seriously than others – so those guys would take the day off. We all survived with our grades intact – it was not a big deal. We are only talking about two extra days. Many of the Greek kids, for instance, took the Greek Orthodox Christmas off. Many of the Hindu kids took their Pujas off. We all managed to graduate and learn stuff. Teachers had to coordinate a bit with the students to make up for missed assignments and tests.

    • Lindsey Sweet

      April 21, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      Yeah, I was wondering why these two days for the kids to miss were such a big deal. It’s not like it’s 2 weeks or a month!

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  10. CW

    April 19, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    What schools should do IMHO is allow families a fixed number of “floating” holidays that can be taken on religious holidays or simply tacked onto the beginning/end of vacation weeks. Hold school on Rosh Hashanah, Good Friday, and whatever Muslim, Hindu, etc. holidays and allow students of the particular faith to use “floating” holidays if they so desire.

  11. Joe Schmitz

    April 20, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    These Jewish Holidays are based on a NATIONAL LEVEL of ALL SCHOOL DISTRICTS across the United States!!! Not just based on one particular LOCAL LEVEL of another school district!! On a NATIONAL LEVEL, Muslim Holidays are not recognized by The Federal Government. That 10% at just one Local school does not justify the means to have it changed on a NATIONAL LEVEL compared to the amount of Jewish students there are in the United States of America. I’m sure you all learned the History of the United States long before even coming here did you not ?? If you did, then you came here with the excepting of the way it is here. And if you didn’t and you don’t think it is fair or doesn’t meet up to your standing of culture, you have one of two choices then, either deal with it, or move to a country who’s beliefs are the same as yours. We do however allow Muslims to take time off for their ceremonies while everyone else continues to go on as scheduled according to the United States way of Culture for over 200 years. Why should our Culture cater to those to which there are so few of to change ours to their way of culture?

  12. Joe Schmitz

    April 20, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Here is a grand idea…. to eliminate any issues of unfairness, how about we just start homeschooling our own kids ? And for those who don’t have the time to do so, well then, hire a tutor. Can you just imagine how many new jobs that would create if a lot of house holds hired tutors for their kids instead of sending them to school with so few teachers on board in the building ? The Jobs would be in masses AND really boost our economy !! And the teachers wouldn’t be out of a job because they can continue students as a tutor throughout the day. This way all parents/students can all have the same equal fairness of observing their Religious holidays of their own culture and background !! Everyone is happy then. And as far a social issues are concerned, hey, that’s what Parks,churches and Social events are all about !! Getting out there and meeting people and socializing. Then there is no claims of discrimination to be raised.

    • Joe Schmitz

      April 20, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      And by homeschooling…. the kids would have less distractions so they can focus better on what they are being taught !!

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  16. Bali Mali

    November 4, 2014 at 10:55 am

    How about no religious holidays. I bet all the atheists and complainers about those unfair Christian holidays they don’t enjoy would gladly give up their days off and vacations and not complain at all if we made it truly fair.

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