NYC schools could close to observe Muslim holidays

Eid-childrenby Wilson Dizard, Al Jazeera America

After a new mayor takes office in New York City next year, schoolchildren could very well have an additional two days off in observance of Muslim holidays. Both mayoral candidates, Democrat Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota, say they support the idea. If such a measure were to come to pass, the New York City school district would be the largest in the United States to grant the days off.

De Blasio said during a campaign rally with local Muslims on Wednesday that observing Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, a celebration during hajj, would help to recognize the city's large Muslim population and wouldn't take away from the education kids get.

"A child who has an exam on a day that right now is one of the Eid holidays, they're either respecting their religious obligation or they're doing what their education requires of them," de Blasio said, according to the New York Daily News. "They can't do both under our current system."

About 13 percent of the city's schoolchildren are Muslims, de Blasio added.

His Republican rival, former city transit chief Joe Lhota, also said that adding the holidays would be a good idea. Students would come to school on two other days to make up for the holidays, he said.

"We have a growing Muslim community in the city of New York and their religion needs to be respected as all other religions are respected," Lhota said Wednesday, according to the Daily News.

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has also pushed the school district in Montgomery County, Md., a suburb of Washington, to add days for Muslim holidays to its calendar.

"Parents should not be forced to choose between religious observance or the education of their children simply because they're of a different faith," CAIR-MD Vice President Zainab Chaudry said, according to a statement provided to Al Jazeera by the organization.

"We want to emphasize that Montgomery County American Muslims don't seek special treatment, but rather equal treatment. This is a civil rights issue." (Read more)