Recently, the New York City Council voted to recognize two Muslim holidays, Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha, as school holidays. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is threatening to veto the motion. He argues that the school year is too short already, and the one Council Member who voted against it sees it as a slippery slope to excessive holidays for every religious group. Although there are those who see this as a divide-and-conquer tactic, with Mayor Bloomberg attempting to get Jewish votes by disenfranchising Muslims, such an opinion shows no knowledge of the dynamics of the NY Jewish community, who overwhelming support the motion, or the Mayor’s outreach to the Muslim community in NY.
Although many Muslims and Muslim-American groups are lobbying for this, I think Mayor Bloomberg is absolutely right. The holidays are on a lunar schedule, meaning they shift about 11 solar days a year. As a teacher, I do not need the hassle of re-jigging my syllabus every year. In addition, because the holidays are based on moon sightings, you automatically privilege one community of Muslims over others, depending on how they sight the moon or calculate months.
As a student in a NY public school, I had to arrange for all three Ids off—yes there is a third Id, Id-e Ghadir, that many Muslims celebrate. Now, NYC wants to decide which Islam is a good Islam and which is not. However, it was a bonding experience for all the Muslim students at my school. Fighting the admittedly accommodating administration was a way we created community. It set us apart from other students.
Mayor Bloomberg claims he is ready to make unpopular decisions. Let him. Deny the Id holidays, and take a stand for the first amendment. Deny all religious holidays. Stop days off for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Christmas, and Easter. Either extend the school year, move to a quarter system, or move school vacation away from holy-days. If Mayor Bloomberg is willing to take this stand, then he is proving what a leader he is, and while it might be a bitter pill, no one will argue that he is not principled. Anything else just reeks of politics.