American Muslims welcome first Eid school holiday

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American Muslims welcome first Eid school holiday

New York - For the first time, more than 1,800 public schools in New York will close for the Muslim feast.


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Published: Wed 23 Sep 2015, 12:51 PM

Last updated: Thu 24 Sep 2015, 3:14 AM

New York marks a milestone in the fight for equality Thursday when 1.1 million children in America's largest school district will take the day off to mark Eid Al Adha.
It is a small but hard-won victory at a time when American Muslims complain of growing Islamophobia and worsening anti-Muslim rhetoric following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
For the first time, more than 1,800 public schools in New York will close for the Muslim feast.
Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the new policy in March, announcing that New York public schools would get two days off for Eid Al Fitr, which falls during the summer, and Eid Al Adha, in addition to major Christian and Jewish holidays.
Since then, city hall has added a further day off - February 8, 2016 - for Lunar New Year, celebrated by Asian-Americans.
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"It is a huge victory to actually see the day come," says Linda Sarsour, a member of the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays and a New York activist with three children.
"As an imam as well as a parent I am very happy," agreed Imam Shamsi Ali, director of the Jamaica Muslim Centre in Queens.
"I'm sure this kind of policy from the government side will push Muslims further to feel a sense of belonging," he said.
Muslim parents in New York previously faced a quandary: keep their children at home to observe the holiday and skip class, or send them to school and let celebrations fall by the wayside.
There are an estimated seven to 10 million Muslims in America, of whom a million are believed to live in New York - about 10 per cent of the city's population.
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New York follows at least seven other school districts that close for Eid in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont, but activists are still campaigning in other parts of the country.
Activists hope that embracing Eid in the school calendar will make Islam more mainstream.
Sadyia Khalique, director of operations for CAIR in New York, said there is "a huge problem" with Islamophobia in the United States but that the holiday could help change that.

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