New York City schools will soon be observing two Islamic holidays. Beginning next school year, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr will be placed on New York City's school holiday calendar. City Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement during a Wednesday morning press conference.
Decision Made Out of Respect for Muslims
The mayor said that the decision to add the holidays was made out of respect for one of the greatest religions on earth. He said that the addition of the holidays will respect Islamic families living in New York City. De Blasio further stated that the decision also reflects New York's growing Muslim population.
Already, school districts in New Jersey, Michigan, Vermont and Massachusetts have honored these holidays. The New York school district is the biggest in the country to honor the holidays yet.
Eid-al Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan. Eid al-Adha celebrates the closing of annual pilgrimages to Mecca. By adding these important holy days to its school calendar, de Blasio hopes to deepen New York City's connection with Muslim residents.
Healing the Wounds of 9/11
Ever since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, New York City has gained a reputation for not treating its Muslim residents fairly. Following the terrorist attacks, the New York City Police Department sent undercover police officers into Muslim neighborhoods to spy on residents. The secretive squad was called the Demographics Unit, but later became known as the Zone Assessment Unit. According to a critic of the Zone Assessment Unit, a representative of the Arab American Association of New York, the spying squads were psychological warfare against the city's Muslim community. The Zone Assessment Unit program was canceled after de Blasio replaced New York's police commissioner.
The issue of school holidays and how cities create policies that can benefit or harm certain ethnic and religious groups could serve to interfere with or protect the civil rights of certain population groups. In adding these Muslim holidays to its school calendar, New York City is clearly taking another step (albeit a small one) toward creating a better atmosphere for its Muslim residents.
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