Since his mayoral campaign, Bill de Blasio has talked a big game about making New York City’s policies more reflective of its populace. Today, he brought that promise one step closer to reality, by announcing that NYC public schools will close in observance of the Muslim holy days of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. New York will become the largest school district in the United States to close in observance of the two holidays, joining districts in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
De Blasio, alongside Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, made the announcement from P.S./I.S. 30 in Bay Ridge, where 36 percent of students were absent the last time Eid al-Adha fell on a school day. The changes will be implemented for the upcoming academic year: on September 24, schools will close for Eid al-Adha. Eid-al-Fitr falls in July of 2016, and will be a holiday for any summer school students.
“This is about respect for one of the great faiths of this Earth,” said de Blasio, according to Bloomberg.com. In past years, “either the child went and pursued his education and missed his religious observance or the other way around. That is the kind of choice that was wrong to have to make for these families.” Chancellor Farina said the day off would be used for teacher training and represents a “teachable moment” that could educate all students on the meaning of the holidays.
The announcement is small yet symbolically resonant, particularly in a city where Muslims are still often treated like second-class citizens. It also fulfills a campaign pledge de Blasio made to the Muslim community in 2013. Eid al-Adha commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God, and Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan.