2 Eid festivals declared holidays in New York City schools, Diwali excluded

Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha are holidays from 2016.

By Sujeet Rajan

NEW YORK: It may be an overture to the Muslim families in New York City and a campaign promise fulfilled, but New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is not going to get any brownie points from the Hindus and also Chinese residents, after he declared that Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha would be holidays in New York City schools, starting in 2016. The reason: Diwali and the Lunar New Year, also among long-standing demand to be deemed as holidays, have yet again been ignored.

With de Blasio’s announcement, New York City now becomes the largest school district in the nation to recognize the two Muslim holidays on the official school calendar. School districts in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Jersey too recognize both the holidays.

“We made a pledge to families that we would change our school calendar to reflect the strength and diversity of our city. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim families will no longer have to choose between honoring the most sacred days on their calendar or attending school,” de Blasio said in a statement.

“We are committed to having a school calendar that reflects and honors the extraordinary diversity of our students,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said in a statement. “Muslim students and their families who observe Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha shouldn’t have to choose between an instructional day and their religious obligations. This new addition will also enable a teachable moment in the classroom for our students to learn about religious tolerance and the societal contributions of various cultures.”

Mona Davids, President of the New York City Parents Union, said in a statement that she will campaign to provide halal lunches to students “because too many Muslim students are going hungry in our schools.”
It’s likely that the Department of Education based its recommendation to make the Muslim holidays as part of the school calendar, on attendance levels.

It’s no secret that as far as the festival of Diwali goes, it’s convenient for most families in the US to celebrate it publicly on a weekend, when commercial Diwali melas are held, or even for family gatherings. And those who celebrate the festival on the given day at home, usually make it an evening occasion.

So, this is not to suggest that parents pull their children out from school this year’s Diwali to give a loud and clear message to officials in New York City that they prefer it as a deemed holiday, but unfortunately till that happens, it’s unlikely to become one, despite its popularity.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) in a statement to The American Bazaar, applauded de Blasio for adding the Eid holidays, but pointed out the missing links of the Lunar New Year and Diwali.

“I also renew my call to make Diwali a school holiday as well, and I hope that will happen soon. The time has come for our school system to recognize all these important holidays, just as it rightly does for holidays of other cultures and ethnicities,” said Meng.

Jacqueline Colson, Member of Community Education Council 25 and NYCPU Queens Chapter Leader, reiterated Meng’s stand, saying in a statement: “I look forward to Mayor de Blasio announcing soon that Diwali, a very important holiday to our Indian community will be added as well.”

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