Muslims Push to Add Holidays to New York City School Calendar

By Jamilah King Apr 18, 2014

Muslim students at New York City’s public schools are calling for the district to recognize Islamic holidays. Estimates of the city’s Muslim population range from 600,000 to 1 million, according to The New York Times. A Columbia University study found that about 10 percent of students in the city’s public schools are Muslim and that 95 percent of Muslim children in the city attend public school.

From The New York Times:

The issue might seem of modest importance alongside deeper concerns among many Muslims in the city, including the Police Department’s monitoring of their community since the Sept. 11 attacks. But the rally, held recently in a public school auditorium in Queens and organized in barely a week’s time, was a testament to how the city’s Muslim community is gaining a measure of political confidence.


Debbie Almontaser, who was forced out of her job as principal of the city’s first Arabic language school, in Brooklyn, in 2007 after The New York Post inaccurately portrayed her as sympathizing with Muslim extremists, now works at the Benjamin Banneker Academy, another public high school in Brooklyn. She sees many of her Muslim students grappling with how to express their identity.

"There is so much negativity out there, and including the Muslim holidays is simply a stamp of saying, We accept and embrace you, and this is your city as it is my city," she said.

The group behind the most recet protests is the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays, which describes itself on Facebook as a collection of "faith-based, civil rights, community, labor and grassroots" organizers. More from the group:

Every year, on their most sacred high holidays, 1 out of every 8 public school children is forced to make an unfair choice between their education and their faith (that’s about 12 percent of the public school population!) The Coalition for Muslim School Holidays is dedicated to organizing to incorporate Eid Ul Fitr and Eid Ul Adha in the NYC public school calendar.

Mayor Bill De Blasio has previously voiced his support for the effort. "It is complicated in terms of logistics and school calendar and budget," he told WNYC host Brian Lehrer last February. "But it’s something I want to get done in a reasonable time frame."