New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced plans to implement a policy allowing public schools to close for two major Muslim holidays and the Lunar New Year.
However, de Blasio also indicated that the Hindu festival Diwali may not reach a level of ethnic and multicultural importance to suit his vacation-day fancy, reports the Daily News.
The mayor said he is still deciding if Diwali should rate as a public school holiday.
“It is complicated in terms of logistics and school calendar and budget,” de Blasio said of the school closings he has decided to endorse. “But it’s something I want to get done in a reasonable time frame.”
The Muslim holidays when Big Apples schools will be able to shut down are Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and has no set date.
Eid al-Adha occurs in the fall and honors Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s command. As part of the holiday, Muslims who can afford it are expected to sacrifice their best domestic animal (cow, goat, camel, sheep, etc., depending on the region).
Estimates of the number of Muslims in New York City vary between 200,000 and 1,000,000. A website called A Journey Through NYC Religions guesstimates the number to be 600,000—roughly seven percent of the population.
The Lunar New Year is an important holiday in China and other East Asian nations. The date varies, but it’s in the winter.
According to a press release from Democrat Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, one in six New York City public school students is Asian American.
At schools in New York City neighborhoods with large concentrations of Asian American residents, a large percentage of students stay home on the Lunar New Year. Under the current policy, these students receive excused absences.
Both major candidates in the 2013 New York City mayoral election — de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota — had endorsed closing public schools across the city for the Lunar New Years and the two Muslim holy days. (RELATED: NYC mayor candidates vow to close public schools for Muslim holidays, but what about Festivus?)
Indian Americans are not happy about their fall holiday, Diwali, getting the shaft.
“We are disappointed. We’ve been trying for a long time,” Shashi Shah of the Association of Indians in America told the Daily News. “It’s very important for the community.”
The holy day of Diwali is a festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains in India and other South Asian countries.
The fight over which holidays to recognize publicly has dogged New York City for ages. Former Mayor Bloomberg’s policy was to minimize holidays because days off mean kids are not in school.
The issue has arisen in other parts of the country recently as well.
For example, in November, public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland announced that they won’t be closing for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha despite demands to do so because attendance records show the increase in absences among all students on those days is completely negligible. (RELATED: Tiny Muslim minority in Maryland fails to force holidays on everybody else)