Move Now to Recognize Muslim Holidays

03/03/2015 05:14 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2015

New York is celebrated as a leader in our nation's quest for progress because ours is a city built by the labor of a thousand different shades and accents. Now, it is the time to lead once more by championing inclusion towards the Muslim-American community at a time of rising tension, mistrust, and, yes, Islamophobia.

It is estimated that one out of every eight children in New York City public schools is Muslim - with the highest concentrations in The Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. In fact, on the two holiest days day in Islam - Eid-al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr - many of our public schools are empty, and yet the days are not recognized as official school holidays.

One way to address these pervasive cultural attitudes is to formally recognize these two days as official school holidays. Eid-al-Adha marks the end of Ramadan, a month-long fasting period for Muslims; and Eid-al-Fitr represents the spirit of sacrifice and charity.

Establishing the two Eids as official holidays will carry important practical and symbolic significance. It will help the growing number of Muslim families in New York reconcile their faith with their drive to educate their children. It will set a uniform standard for schools with large numbers of Muslim students.

Perhaps most importantly, it will ensure that no student has to decide between taking a school test (or one of the ever increasing state-mandated exams) or staying home with their family. I saw the struggle our students are going through when I met with a Bangladeshi-American family in the Parkchester section of the Bronx last year. The mother told me of the struggle her son faces each year when he has to go to the teacher and explain that Eid-al-Adha is not a made-up holiday, but rather one of the most treasured days in his culture.

Recognizing these two most important Islamic holidays will be a clear message to Muslim New Yorkers - particularly youth - that they are accepted as part of our society and that their faith and traditions are respected by a city counts on them as responsible citizens.

I have championed this issue from my days a City Council Member representing Downtown and Central Brooklyn communities, the home of many diverse Muslim families. During my campaign for Public Advocate, and Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign for mayor, we committed to making Eid school holidays a reality.

It is time we come through on this promise and take a substantive step toward making New York more inclusive than ever.

I urge the Department of Education to move immediately to establish Eid-al-Adha and Eid-al-Fitr as official school holidays. Doing so will keep New York in line with the principles that have made it the greatest city on earth.