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New York Schools Will Observe Islamic Holidays

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday via Twitter that two Islamic holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, will be added to the city’s school calendars, fulfilling one of his campaign pledges.

Today we’ll announce the addition of Eid al-Adha & al-Fitr to @NYCSchools holiday schedule, a change that respects the diversity of our city

— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) March 4, 2015

New York has a large Muslim population, estimated at between 600,000 and 1 million people, and about 10 percent of New York schoolchildren are believed to be from Muslim families. The Muslim community has been pushing for the change for several years, but the change was blocked by previous mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said it was more important for students to remain in school.

During a press conference Wednesday morning, de Blasio said the new holidays would prevent Muslim children from having to choose between their faith and their education.

“This is about respect for one of the great faiths of this earth,” de Blasio said. “The Muslim faith is one of the fastest-growing in this nation and in this city.”

New York public advocate Letitia James, who pushed for the change, said the additions served to show that America was “one nation under all,” apparently not wanting to mention God (or Allah).

The two holidays are Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr. Eid al-Adha, meaning “Feast of Sacrifice,” commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael before God intervened (a similar story is in the Bible, but with Isaac to be sacrificed instead of Ishmael). The festival lasts four days in much of the Islamic world, though New York schools will only take one day off to observe it.

Eid al-Fitr, meaning “Feast of Breaking the Fast,” is a holiday lasting one to three days celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Both holidays are dated using the Islamic lunar calendar, meaning the date moves back about 10 to 12 days each year. For example, last year Eid al-Adha fell on Oct. 5, and next year it will fall on Sept. 23. Eid al-Fitr will fall during the summer for the next several years, but will be a designated holiday for those in summer school.

The Islamic holidays will join a crowded list of religious days New York already observes. Besides having winter and spring breaks that coincide with Christmas and Easter, New York also takes two days off to observe the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashannah and another to observe Yom Kippur.

Nor is de Blasio finished. During his remarks Wednesday, he said he is working to add the Chinese Lunar New Year to the school holiday calendar, though he acknowledged this would be difficult because the city only has so many additional days it can take off.

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