Bay Ridge leaders praise inclusion of Muslim school holidays
Bay Ridge boasts a large population of Arab-Americans and leaders of that community were full of praise for the announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña to add two Muslim holidays to the public school calendar.
The mayor and chancellor announced that from now on, public schools will be closed on Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha, two of the holiest days on the Muslim calendar.
De Blasio and Fariña came to Intermediate School 30 on Ovington Avenue in Bay Ridge on March 4 to make the big announcement.
Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, a non-profit organization based in Bay Ridge, was among those standing next to the mayor when he spoke at I.S. 30 on Wednesday.
“As a parent of three current NYC public school students, I am so proud of my city today for making history and incorporating Muslim holidays in the calendar of the largest public school system in the country,” Sarsour said.
Sarsour is also a member of the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays, a group of civic, religious and labor leaders that advocates for Muslim holidays to be included in the days that the city’s schoolchildren get off during the school year.
“This is what New York City is all about – recognition, inclusion and respect. Mayor de Blasio promised one in eight public school students that they wouldn’t have to choose between their education and their faith and he delivered,” Sarsour said.
Elected officials also expressed support for the de Blasio Administration’s move.
“I am proud to represent one of the largest Muslim populations in New York City and today I commend Mayor de Blasio for making good on his promise for New York City public schools to observe two of the most sacred Muslim holy days: Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr,” Councilmember Vincent Gentile said.
Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said the change “respects the diversity of our city.”
Ibrahim Mossallam, of the Muslim American Society of Brooklyn, called the decision to include the two holidays on the public school calendar an encouraging development. “After years of advocating by New York City’s Muslim community, NYC’s Muslim school students will no longer be penalized for observing their holidays,” he said.
The majority – 95 percent by some estimates – of Muslim school-age children in New York City attend public schools, according to the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays.
Leaders of the Arab-American community said they fought for recognition for Muslim holidays for years.
“On February 19, 2006, the New York Times published an article entitled: ‘Wrestling With Faith While Making the Grade.’ At that time, Muslim students were forced to take state exams on their holiest day of the year. Nine years later, the mayor of New York City is announcing the addition of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha to the school calendar. The incorporation of Muslim holidays in the public school system is a milestone and it is the result of the dedication of members of our community, the City Council and the present administration,” said Omar Mohammedi, a member of the Association of Muslim American Lawyers.