Judicial Watch • N.Y. Public Schools May Observe Muslim Holidays

N.Y. Public Schools May Observe Muslim Holidays

N.Y. Public Schools May Observe Muslim Holidays

JULY 15, 2010

Muslim religious holidays will be officially observed by the largest public school district in the United States under a bill pending in the New York State Legislature.

A similar proposal was overwhelmingly approved by the New York City Council last year but got nixed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That measure, which had the support of the powerful teachers’ union, would have added 11 generally observed Islamic holidays to the New York City School District’s calendar.

Bloomberg, who oversees the city’s education system, opposes the idea because students cannot afford more days off in a district with exorbitant dropout rates and dismal overall performances. Less than half of the city’s students graduate on time and one in ten drop out. “Everybody would like to be recognized but the truth of the matter is we need more school days, not less,” Bloomberg said this week during a Muslim rally outside City Hall to push for the law.

The New York City Department of Education has about 1.1 million students in more than 1,600 campuses. About 12% of them are Muslim, according to local statistics, and for years their advocates have pushed to have nearly a dozen religious holidays officially observed by the district.

After suffering a defeat at the local level, the pending state measure calls for the observation of only two Muslim holidays, Eid Ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and Eid Ul-Adha, which celebrates the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims argue that the school calendar currently observes 13 holidays, including the Christian Good Friday and Jewish Rosh Hashana.

Other public school districts throughout the nation have been pressured into observing Muslim holidays, but none as large as New York City. In Illinois’s Oak Lawn School District, schools were forced to celebrate Ramadan if they wanted to keep acknowledging traditional American holidays such as Christmas and Halloween after a Muslim mother complained.


 

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