Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Muslims Press for School Holidays in New York City

Although NY Muslims where already told in the past that their "holy days" will not be added to the school calender, they continue to push.

Muslims Press for School Holidays in New York City
As Mayor Courts Ethnic Vote, Groups Seek Same Accommodation of Religious Observances That Christians and Jews Receive

NEW YORK -- Muslims groups here are pressing city officials to close public schools on two of the faith's holiest days, just as schools do for major Jewish and Christian holidays. But the groups have yet to persuade the man in charge of New York City schools, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Muslim groups have asked the city to cancel classes on Eid Ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and Eid Ul-Adha, which marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

New York is one of many public-school systems now struggling with appropriate ways to recognize religious holidays for a diverse population. An estimated 100,000 Muslim children are enrolled in New York City schools, about 10% of the enrollment.

The matter has taken on a political aspect as Mr. Bloomberg, seeking a third term as mayor, has steadily courted the endorsement of a slew of ethnic groups. One city councilman said Muslims might withhold their votes if the mayor doesn't heed their wishes. Candidates are running in a primary Tuesday for the right to face Mr. Bloomberg, an independent, in the November election.

"This city is supposedly the most diverse city in the world. The city's laws and rules have to reflect that," said Councilman Robert Jackson, a Muslim from the borough of Manhattan. "I am hoping that pressure from the Muslim community will help Mayor Bloomberg decide, in the best interest of himself politically, to incorporate these two holidays."

The mayor often says children need to be in school more, not less, and that establishing more holidays would encourage every religious group to demand that their holy days be recognized. Children are required to attend school for at least 180 days a year in New York.

Other states have found a workable approach. Dearborn, Mich., where nearly half of the 18,000 students are Muslim, is believed to be the first city to close school on Muslim holy days, a spokesman said. Several cities in New Jersey now close school on the holy days.

After Muslims asked for school closings in Hillsborough County, Fla., the school board in 2007 approved a secular calendar that doesn't commemorate any religious holidays for the 189,000 students. Schools remain open on Good Friday, a Christian holiday, even though many students are absent, said Linda Cobbe, a spokeswoman. "There are so many religions we don't want to single out one or two," she said.

Mr. Bloomberg is still considering the Muslims' proposal. "He has charged a number of people with thinking about this," said Fatima Shama, the mayor's newly appointed immigrant-affairs commissioner, who is Muslim.

Link to Article

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