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July 1st, 2010
08:44 AM ET

My Take: New York's schools should observe Muslim holidays

Editor's note: Imam Khalid Latif is a chaplain for New York University and Executive Director of the school's Islamic Center.

By Khalid Latif, Special to CNN

I was recently eating dinner at a restaurant with a friend near Times Square when it became time for me to pray. Muslims pray five times a day and this particular prayer, called Maghrib, is performed at sunset.

Having lived in New York City for decades, I’ve become comfortable praying pretty much anywhere. It also doesn’t hurt that there are stranger things happening on the streets here than a young guy bowing and kneeling for a few minutes.

After I started to pray, a tour bus parked in front of me and a large group of people proceeded to spill out.

While I continued, a woman from the group came closer to where I was praying. She removed a scarf from her neck, placed it on the ground so that I would be praying on something clean, then walked away before I finished.

A truly amazing woman whose name I don’t even know. But if I had not felt comfortable being myself and praying on the street, I would never have had the opportunity to learn from her.

A child at a recent rally for Muslim holidays to be observed by New York city schools.

It’s not easy fitting in. Whether you’re 15 years old or 55, most of us have to compartmentalize our identity in order to feel accepted. We let go of things that we hold dear in hopes that we can just belong and in doing so we assume the worst of the people around us. We think that they wouldn’t be able to understand and accept us for who we are.

A year ago this week, more than 80 faith-based, civil rights, community and labor organizations came together under the title Coalition for Muslim School Holidays. Our purpose was to encourage New York City to give permanent recognition to its Muslim community by adding two holidays observed by Muslims to the public school calendar: Eid ul-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, the sacred month of fasting and Eid Ul-Adha, which celebrates the end of the Hajj, the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca.

New York’s City Council convened to vote on the issue and almost unanimously passed resolution 1281, calling for the Department of Education to recognize the holidays. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that the holidays won’t be added to the public school calendar

Yesterday, the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays held a late morning rally on the steps of New York’s City Hall. Hundreds of people attended and even more stood at the gates waiting to get in—a 300 person limit had been placed on the gathering—as politicians, city officials, interfaith leaders and activists spoke from the steps telling Mayor Bloomberg why he should change his mind.

The expectation that people have of Muslims these days is pretty confusing. On one hand, Muslims are explicitly told they need to integrate Islam more effectively into mainstream society. On the other hand, Muslims are implicitly shown that can’t really happen. The construction of our mosques is protested, our communities are profiled, and our children have to go to school on their holidays.

“One in every eight school kids in the City of New York observes the Muslim faith,” New York City Comptroller John Liu said in a statement issued yesterday by the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays. “Yet these students are forced to choose between their education and their faith, and it’s a situation that needs to be rectified.”

In addition all the presidents of New York’s five boroughs have sent letters of support to our coalition, while Public Advocate Bill de Blasio support the City Council resolution recognizing Muslim holidays.

“About 12 percent of New York City students are Muslim,” says de Blasio, “and consequently thousands of students miss exams and important activities because they are scheduled on Muslim holidays. The Department of Education should treat these students equally and include the two main Islamic holidays in the school calendar, just as it does with other major religions.”

It was a beautiful thing to stand amongst a diverse group of people yesterday in support of a cause that really goes beyond a holiday. I’m looking forward to the day that it’s celebration—not contention—that brings us together. Who knows? Maybe it’ll even be on Eid.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Khalid Latif. Author photo courtesy Bryan Derballa.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Education • Islam • Muslim • Opinion

soundoff (1,105 Responses)
  1. Alex

    Nope, but we shouldn't really be observing Christian holidays either, including Christmas.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  2. McCluck

    Hows this.-No national hollidays for fairytales. National hollidays are just fine as long as they dont endorse a religion. Feel free to keep your children home on religious days but dont expect others to do anything to help

    July 1, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  3. Dan

    Next thing will be: should we all observe Sharia Law

    July 1, 2010 at 9:28 am |
    • Momo

      Look buddy.. Im a muslim, and I DONT want Sharia Law.. EVER.. (well ok, maybe we could use the parts of Sharia law that apply to convicted murderers and rapists) .... but holidays?? who doesnt want more holidays?? Shoot, we could celebrate passover, hungover and Yom Kipper while were at it..

      MORE HOLIDAYS!!!! WoOOoOOoOT

      July 1, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  4. clammer

    religion is an ill of man and does more harm than good, teach that in public schools!

    July 1, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  5. Cyrus

    LJ: Not sure which country or which state you live in, but NYC public schools already have enough Jewish and Christian holidays. Also, Buddhism and Hinduism are not religions. They are philosophies.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:28 am |
    • bjwoll

      Hinduism is a religion. The third largest in the world, demographically speaking. They have gods and everything. Do your homework.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:39 am |
    • David

      Hinduism IS a religion, a polytheistic 1 no less. You are correct about Buddhism, however.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • question

      You say Budism IS NOT a religion, and some religious people say atheist IS a religion. We can see how urgent it is to check the term out before posting anywhere.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:04 am |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      Buddhism is a Philosophy. But, correct me if I'm wrong, Hinduism is both a Religion and Philosophy. Hinduism and Buddhism are closely related.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • Abhijit

      Hinduism is at core a monotheistic religion. But just like Christians worship son of God, mother of son of God, Angels, Muslim allow worship to the prophet who could talk to God, many Hindus also pray to Devata (there is no direct english word for it, but consider them as ministry of God to run the affairs of the world and ruling the heaven). At the end of the day all Hindus directly or indirectly worship the almighty God Vishnu.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:54 am |
    • Mohammed

      Abhijit: "Muslim allow worship to the prophet who could talk to God"
      I am not sure I understand your comment, but Muslim's do not worship prophets.

      July 2, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  6. SCOTO

    No way. Keep religion out of our schools and public lives to the greatest extent possible. As an atheist I would of course welcome a "freedom from religion" holiday but I am willing to fore go that as long as the religious peddlers do the same.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:27 am |
    • Radar911

      Well said!!!!

      July 1, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  7. gg

    As a matter of fact most of the international schools, with roots in predominantly christian countries, do observe Christmas, in countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The reality of the situation is that the vast majority of the children in public schools in Saudi are muslim, and the statistic for non-muslims would be far less than 1%.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  8. Veteran

    Alf Jamb- This is not about Saudi Arabia, this is New York. The fact is 12 percent of students in NYC are Muslim and have to choose between missing school, or not celebrating their holidays.

    on another note, I remember attending SUNY New Paltz university, where we celebrated every Jewish and Christian holiday, but didn't even observe veterans or memorial day, truly sad.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  9. Jonathan Levin

    Having faced many of these same issues growing up Jewish in the South, I fully support the inclusion of these Muslim holidays into the school calendar. I recommend establishing a policy similar to that of the University of Pennsylvania. It recognizes the primary holidays of most faiths (I cannot attest to all) and then includes a recognition that some more observant members of different faiths may have other days that are equally significant to them. It leaves recognition of those days to notification from the student to the faculty member and implies that arrangements should be made for exams, papers and the like. The University's policy is the most sensitive addressing of this issue that I have ever seen.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  10. Cyrus

    Alf Jamb:

    Are we competing against Saudi Arabia now? We are not Saudi Arabia. We are a society based on the values of equality and freedom. Those values are above religion, faith, rites, and individuals. If you pride yourself being an American, then don't forget that there are many Americans who don't share your faith, don't look like you, talk like you, and so on. If you cannot see that difference, then perhaps you should move to Saudi Arabia.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:26 am |
  11. Edward

    School probably shouldn't close on any religious holiday but instead people who practice those religions should be able to take the day off. Like some people do on MLK day at some work places.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:26 am |
    • Lisa

      I couldn't agree more! If there was no school on all important holidays for all religions, schools would have to extend the school year to accommodate all the missed days. The best solution would be to not have a scheduled break for ANY holidays and just allow students to miss a certain number of days for religious purposes. Schools could keep track of all important holidays and avoid scheduling exams and such on those days.
      While I was growing up I always had to choose school over any Jewish holiday because my teachers always seemed to schedule important events on holidays. It would be nice if my kids wouldn't have to go through the same thing.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:31 am |
    • Scott

      Ed, Lisa – Seems like a reasonable solution. Has some possible shortcomings regarding what religious holidays are 'major' but I like the idea.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  12. Sarcastro

    As soon as women have all the same rights as men do across the Muslim world, then sure, let's celebrate those holidays here. Perhaps that will give those backwards barbaric places some motivation to at least approach equality and the 21st century. Otherwise I don't want my wife and daughter anywhere near celebrating that religion.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:26 am |
    • Joe

      Yes and when women and gays are equal in the eyes of Christian religions we will be ok with celebrating Christian holidays.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:35 am |
    • Carl

      Is Christianity any better? Look at all the pedophile priests in the news.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:37 am |
    • DD

      Hmmm, I am well aware of several protestant churches that don;t allow women in the pullpit or to serves as ministers or pastors (Southern Baptiist), What about Cathoolics? Many chritian denomiations treat women as below men in the order of the church/pastoral service................. let's not even discuss orthodox Jews as well.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:16 am |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      I could have sworn priests molested little boys, and Christians give no rights to gays.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:20 am |
    • JDT

      A few things...

      Sarcasto, i understand the point you are trying to make (I don't agree, but understand), however you stated you wouldn't allow your wife or daughter around that religion... isn't that exerting the very control you are trying to "protect" them from?

      DD, women can serve as Southern Baptist ministers... do some fact-finding before you criticize.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  13. Chisos

    I totally agree. We shoud include more religious holidays. I hereby demand that Pastafarian holidays be added to all school calendars. Holy be the noodley appendages.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:26 am |
    • Steven

      And we can all dress as Pirates.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:58 am |
    • Scott

      Ramen Brother

      July 1, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  14. LJ

    If you allow Muslim holidays to be added to the public school calendar, why not allow Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu etc?

    July 1, 2010 at 9:25 am |
    • Veteran

      Jewish holidays arn't on the public school calendar? You must not live in NY

      July 1, 2010 at 9:28 am |
    • spm

      Jewish holidays are on the public school calendar here.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:49 am |
    • ApeHanger

      Yes, but what about the other religions? BTW, I celebrate paganism. I want my religious holidays too!

      July 1, 2010 at 9:57 am |
    • random1

      I didn't know Jewish holidays were observed in public school. They're definitely not in GA, CA, and WA (the only places I know for sure). I'm pretty sure they're not but would appreciate more input for clarification.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:24 am |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      We already have Jews on the calender. And maybe we should have Hindu and Buddhists on the calender also.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:18 am |
  15. Zack

    Do you also attend class on Easter?

    July 1, 2010 at 9:25 am |
    • Sarcastro

      There are no classes on weekends. Since Easter falls on a Sunday, that would be a no, but not for any religious purposes.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:27 am |
    • Stacey

      Easter is always on a Sunday – hence no classes. However, I have to work on Good Friday or take a vacation day. While in college, I attended classes on Good Friday as well.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:37 am |
    • Jane Freeman

      first of all Easter is always in a Sunday so no one would attend school on Easter but my school did not observe spring break during Easter so I attended school on Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday and Friday prior to Easter which are important Religious holidays in the Catholic Church. And if we integrate holidays for the Muslim faith should we not do the same for Jewish, Buddhist, Shinto, Hindu, Daoist, Ba'hai and and any other world religion?

      July 1, 2010 at 9:42 am |
    • CosmicC

      Yes, Easter is on a Sunday and there's no school on Sundays...BECAUSE IT'S A RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY (check commandment # 4)

      July 1, 2010 at 9:52 am |
    • DYLANSDADDY

      How foolish are you? Easter is on a Sunday. When I was in school (80s-early 90s) we did not get any religious holidays off. Only federal holidays. The only holiday that is both a religious holiday and a federal holiday is Christmas.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:05 am |
    • Kristen

      "Spring" break always conveniently happens around Easter. When I was in school in the Midwest, in the 80s, it WAS Easter break (poor Jews). Here in IL we could skip "Cashimir Pulaski" day (which is a mandated day off in honor of Polish Illinoisans) and maybe one of the several February President days so that we can honor the beleifs of some of our citizens. YES, Muslim Americans are Americans just like Jewish Americans and Christian Americans.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:32 am |
    • Carl

      @CosmicC #4 reads Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Notice the word Sabbath= Saturady.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  16. jo

    I think observance should depend on the percentage of students who would likely be absent on a given holiday. If such a large percentage would be absent, it would seem prudent to make the day a school holiday.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:24 am |
    • Greg

      Please stop making sense....this is CNN, there's no room for nonsense such as "logic" here.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:32 am |
    • spm

      I completely agree. In our public school district holiday observances are determined by the number of students that may be absent -thus the school not receiving state $. At some point it is not affordable to hold school because it is a religious holiday and many would be absent. That being said -our school has winter break off (which is non-religious though it does coincide with Christmas) and we also have off Rosh H. & Yom Kippur. If parents wish for their kids to be off on Hannukah they may have an excused absence. NO specific Christian holidays are observed (Easter is a Sunday) – and Good Friday is only off if it happens to coincide with Spring break, which happens about every 4 years. I like how our publc district handles this.

      Having said all of this my kids attend a private (parochial) school and holidays are determined based on the children that attend there- simlar to the above.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:46 am |
    • spm

      I completely agree. In our public school district holiday observances are determined by the number of students that may be absent -thus the school not receiving state $. At some point it is not affordable to hold school because it is a religious holiday and many would be absent. That being said -our school has winter break off (which is non-religious though it does coincide with Christmas) and we also have off Rosh H. & Yom Kippur. If parents wish for their kids to be off on Hannukah they may have an excused absence. NO specific Christian holidays are observed (Easter is a Sunday) – and Good Friday is only off if it happens to coincide with Spring break, which happens about every 4 years. I like how our publc district handles this.

      Having said all of this my kids attend a private (parochial) school and holidays are determined based on the children that attend there- simlar to the above.

      It all comes down to $$$.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:47 am |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      Actually even on my Islamic holidays I would still go to school. I still wished that those days would be holidays, but i still went 🙁

      July 1, 2010 at 11:15 am |
    • Mohammed

      You know off all the comments listed here, yorus made the most sense. Thank you.

      July 2, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  17. Spike

    Where are all the people who were attacking Christians on the other article?? Come on!! This is CNN! People, where is your anti-religious fervor?? The other article was over flowing with commenets about how little men in the sky don't exist and religion and fairy tales are the same thing. Where are you guys now. Oh, it's because this is Islam. For some reason you can't do that with Islam.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:23 am |
    • Grant

      x 🙁 closed-minded...all of you

      July 1, 2010 at 9:38 am |
    • CosmicC

      Right. Let's send them all home. Germans back to Germany, Italians back to Italy, Pilgrims back to England....

      July 1, 2010 at 9:49 am |
    • Bojangles

      Duke, I am not sure if you are kiddig or not. Are you suggesting that there is no such thing as an American Muslim? and that no Muslim can truly call America "home"? If so, your naivete/ignorance amuses me.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:49 am |
    • jdnzero

      @ Duke:
      Are you kidding or just full of bigotry and hatred? Why did your ancestors come here? Mine came to find religious freedom and to live free from the oppression that holds back the "old world". This is the new world, and these are modern times. Your intolerance has no place in this country or this age.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:57 am |
    • Joe

      Grant, the purden of proof is on the religious side.. not the atheist side. Ever heard of Russel's Teapot? If you want to be religious that's great.. but people who don't subscribe to your dogma are definitely not "close-minded."

      July 1, 2010 at 10:04 am |
    • radam82

      I'm here, and yes, all religions are cultural fairy tales with little to no basis in reality, but if humans want their silly tribal fetishes, I don't care.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:12 am |
    • Grant

      Actually Joe, I'm an atheist. The closed-minded comment was directed to people who are completely intolerant of Muslims since at the time of my initial reply, that's all that was there. Sorry for any confusion!

      July 1, 2010 at 10:43 am |
    • Bill870

      I worked with a young man of Islamic faith at a hotel in Memphis during the early 80's. He treated me fine, as I was white and straight. Being a hotel there were lots of gays and minorities who worked there.
      Every few days he would rant about in his country they threw blacks (I am being nice) and f*ggots off the roofs of the highest buildings.
      One morning, before I had enough coffee in me to be nice, he started up again. I explained to him the area I grew up in (Snake Island, Arkansas) They hanged those same people..... along with foreigners from the same tree. He never said that again. (-:
      Then there was the Baptist Brotherhood who spent a week at the hotel and tipped my bellmen a total of $22. That was by the entire 207 of them in the hotel.
      I really do not like any religion.....

      July 1, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • Joe

      My mistake sir!

      July 1, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • ideagal

      You are right Spike, the atheists run for cover and never try to argue with Muslims. Why? Because they ARE a violent religion at the very core. Christians believe that every life is made in God's image and of great value to Him, and because of that feel they owe a certain amount of respect to all (No matter how big a pain in the butt they are). Normal Christians don't kill people they disagree with we pray for them. In countries where Muslims rule you will agree, be quiet, or die. There is a huge difference. We should never take our liberties here for granted nor give them over to others to take from us.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:03 am |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      Ideagal most Muslims don't kill people of other religions either. You need to make a better argument or nobody will buy your ideas.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • Kate

      Where are the Muslims quoting the Qumran like it's the rules on how the world works? So far, I don't see them posting idiocies like the Christians have been.

      July 2, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  18. Alf Jamb

    Would non-muslim students in Saudi Arabia for example get the same privilege? Aren't you being a bit hypocritical? Examine yourself and your religion first.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:16 am |
    • Carl

      So we can't do something right unless Saudi Arabia does it too? Since when should the USA model itself after a dictatorship?

      If a school is mostly Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, then I have no problem with the holiday policies recognizing the cultural holidays their families would like to be able to observe.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:35 am |
    • jeff

      Saudi Arabia is a theocracy and can't be compared to a secular Amierica.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:37 am |
    • jdnzero

      How does that matter at all? They aren't allowed to drink alcohol and women can't drive cars. Obviously our laws and theirs are different, and rightly so.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:51 am |
    • ApeHanger

      Why does religion even have to get involved with our public education system? How about if we use our schools and the money that they consume to teach academic and scientific subjects, not a bunch of make-believe religious nonsense?

      July 1, 2010 at 9:55 am |
    • Peter

      Well Alf.... Thank god we live in America and not Saudi Arabia... Where do you get the nerve to compare our free nation to a oppressive regime in the Middle East??

      July 1, 2010 at 9:56 am |
    • Noon

      Not Saudia Arabia for sure but almost all Muslim countries recognize Christmas day and have a holiday

      July 1, 2010 at 10:52 am |
    • Mat

      There is no holiday for christian religious days in any middle eastern country except may be lebanon, since it has a good sized christian population. Heck some of the ME countries dont even give sufficient space to built a church.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:59 am |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      Yay your going down to Saudi Arabia's level now? You should just join the Taliban if you think like that.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:08 am |
  19. jo

    Really JL? You attend classes on Christmas?

    July 1, 2010 at 9:13 am |
    • stubs

      Its not Christmas anymore, its winter break. The same rules have to apply to everyone. If religion isnt allowed in schools then that should include all of them

      July 1, 2010 at 9:28 am |
    • Grant

      And I suppose that day off for Easter is part of Spring break? Call it what you want, the fact remains that those are days off for a religious reason.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:36 am |
    • whatever

      In MI they moved spring break away from Easter so it could not be a religious holiday.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:51 am |
    • DYLANSDADDY

      Easter is on a Sunday.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:52 am |
    • TT

      Winter break? No, they did that because it was trying to be PC and account for the fact that they can't take Hanukkah and other things off and lose the entire month. It was known as Christmas break until it went PC. However, Christian holidays rule the school. I'm Christian and I loved it growing up for our holidays. Easter break is now mid-winter recess, but let's not kid ourselves. It's always been Easter break, just by another name. There are Jewish holidays that are taken off as well, alongside obviously our other national holidays. This is just about being fair and recognizing one of the largest religions in the world, larger than even Christianity.

      I personally don't like the idea of having any religious holidays off since I think they shouldn't mix, but if you allow some, you allow others.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:01 am |
    • Abd al-Latif

      "It's not Christmas anymore, it's winter break." A change of name does not change the fact that the break includes Christmas, each and every year!

      July 1, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  20. JL

    No way! We attend class regardless of our religious calendars.

    July 1, 2010 at 8:55 am |
    • Carl

      You go to school on Christmas?

      July 1, 2010 at 9:33 am |
    • Don

      Carl, It's called winter break not Christmas break.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:53 am |
    • Tim

      to joe, what are you talking about? You’re making it out to be a hateful religion and it is not. Unfortunately corrupt individuals come to power and twist the religion to their own ends. (Christianity has done it too) You are making assumptions and you know what happens when you assume? Please do at least SOME research about a topic before making comments.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:05 am |
    • GregB

      @Earnán: Please elaborate how the historical traditions of Islam differs from that of Christianity and makes it any less or any more violent? The basis of religion, in general, is a violent affliction on this planet and will always be regardless of if it's Islam or Christianity.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:18 am |
    • andyk

      Funny... we have a winter break over christmas and another break that coincides with easter for the vast majority of public schools (even though easter is always on a sunday). But you're right, these breaks are just tied to the seasons, it's all a coincidence... Course, where's the fall break to honor that season? And btw, there's a bridge i'd like to sell you while i'm at it.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:25 am |
    • Mike

      Where is the ACLU and Freedom FROM Religon people on this one Hippocrates

      July 1, 2010 at 10:30 am |
    • Patriotic

      Yes you are right. And anyway there is still a seperation from church and state which includes the public school system. Winter Break is two weeks long and anyway Christmas is a Federal Holiday. I know it was based on religion, but now it is more of a commercialized holiday. So you are right we should not allow just one religion to get away with taking religious holidays off or all of them should be tooken off than. They should adjust to our customs like we got to when we go and visit there country.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • Prometheus

      Islam is a political movement with the goal of a Theocratic state and Sharia law where ever it spreads...it is against Separation of religion and state...Islam, in its current state is, needs a major reform. It is contrary to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is abusive of women and democracy.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:46 am |
    • Matt

      Not in NY we don't. I'm a graduate of NYC public schools and we always had off for the Jewish high holidays, which was very nice as otherwise I would have missed class those days. Our Muslim classmates didn't have that luxury.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:47 am |
    • GregB

      SC: Despite the lies that your pedophile shaman's have told you about this country – we are NOT a Christian nation. We were founded to have a very sharp distinction from the oppression of any kind of religious oppression. Please do not forget that the reason that Christianity is the majority religion in the United States is because it was founded by Christians fleeing the tyranny and persecution of the Church.

      Treaty of Tripoli: "Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen..."

      Signed by President John Adams.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:49 am |
    • Mat

      Islam talks of peace and war. Its not similar to bible ( the new testament). Islam talk about killing non believers if they are a hindrance to practice of islam. Its a theocracy, believe me, once they are a majority they will suppress other faiths and non believers. There is not even one democratic islamic nation in the world. Other will pint out to the non democratic christian rulers in the past and present. In the past there were absolute monarchs and the dictators were non christians having names of christians.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:55 am |
    • Shawn

      there's only one thing you should do with the time that you have, regardless if it's religious holiday, winter/spring break, or whatever you want to call it. there are only SALES. go out there during your valuable time off and spend your hard earned money! quit bickering and go SHOP! make me more wealthy so i can name buildings after my name!! lol hahaha!

      July 1, 2010 at 10:59 am |
    • Abd al-Latif

      Don: "It's called winter break, not Christmas break." But it is, in fact, Christmas break. Oh, sorry, I guess it just so happens that it always includes Christmas; and "Spring Break" almost always includes Easter.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:02 am |
    • Paperclip411

      I say that if you have a religious holiday that you observe and practice, then you should be allowed to have the day. It was not counted against my attendance when my family observed MLK day before they gave everyone off, no its not a religion MLK day, but I am African American and my family observed that day. It was not counted against me. If you have specific holidays then everyone should get the MAIN ones off. Like how we do get Easter/Spring break and Christmas/Winter break. This is an easy one.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:02 am |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      I agree. SC we are not a Christian nation and never were. We weren't even founded as a "christian nation". America was made to be a place for all religions, and much later, all races. Open up your mind.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:04 am |
    • Arthur

      The United States was pretty much formed by Christians, seeing the problems it caused in there homeland and elsewhere they added the whole freedom of religion clause. A couple of decades ago a small group was able to remove references to god and anything else pertaining to religion from public schools. The holidays have been renamed winter and spring break, no they have not been moved, but they are not considered by most to be religious in nature any more. If you try to add days off based on your faith to the school calendar that same group will take it to the supreme court to get it overturned. Saying that by allowing these holidays you are promoting religion in schools. I'm not saying I agree with this, but that is how it is. That said if a teacher cant work tests around two days a year they are not much of a teacher.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • majogo1960m

      Islam has been at WAR with the western world since the beginning of Islam and that is a fact. If you don't convert, then you die. It's as simple as that. Sorry liberal multi culture diversity spewing Anti Americans. I will NEVER tolerate a religion that treats woman like dirt and that says MY religion is not the TRUE religion! (Neo christian pagen buddist, though it is not any body's business anyway who I pray too!!) And if you don't like my politics, TOO BAD!!!

      July 1, 2010 at 11:07 am |
    • Margot707

      Don – It used to be called Christmas break. The time off shifted and became "Winter Break" to accommodate Channuka. There also used to be "Easter week." Now it's "Spring Break" to include Passover. These Jewish holidays occur around the same time as the Christian ones, so what happens in the schools for Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur?

      July 1, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • Lat145

      Folks, America was founded on Christianity which is why there is a holiday for Christmas. Sorry but that is our history. In my experience schools will find any reason to have a day off. How many different religious faiths can this country support and still have enough days left to actually teach? And where is the argument about the seperation of Church and State?

      July 1, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • Sal

      May God be upon this brave man. It is extra-ordinary that this individual is able to pray freely in New York City in peace. Thus, it cannot be said the same for Christians to freely pray in a Middle Eastern nations with the same tolerance. We must learn to tolerate and respect each other before we start asking for special rights.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • Lucky

      Honestly i would say no to the holiday's but not for a religious thing because kids now days are already stupid enough and being failed by the education system they need every day they can get to learn something........If anything they should be taking away all the current holiday's so.....That's what i think...

      July 1, 2010 at 11:14 am |
    • dan

      it used to be called christmas break till people started crying about it. now its winter break, the holidays, non specific stuff like that.... but christmas is the main reason for winter break isnt it.

      why cant we get a muslim holiday in there too.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:17 am |
    • trooper

      I dont belive we should, as a hindu and a american my holidays and holy days arent included, school is for learning skills that will help in your building a good life for yourself not for teaching religion leave that for in the home.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:20 am |
    • john

      Having been born in Saudi Arabia, and having traveled extensively in the Middle East, I know that very few Muslim countries tolerate open worship by people of other faiths. There are no Christian Churches in Saudi Arabia for example or in most Muslim countries. Building a Church would not be tolerated for a moment. I have very little sympathy for Muslims in the West who complain about constraints they feel on their ability to practice their religion (in the West). Their hypocrisy is deafening!

      July 1, 2010 at 11:21 am |
    • Jennifer

      Sure I think schools should be closed for Muslim holidays, that is of course if you're in a Muslim based country. Our country was founded on Chrisitan beliefs and that's what this country observes. You must respect the country you're in and their faith. Just as I would if I lived in another country that was founded on Muslim, Islamic or another faith's beliefs. I certainly wouldn't open a Christmas tree lot in a Muslim based country during the holidays. That's being disrespetful to their faith. We are lucky here in this country that we are open to other faith's beliefs and they are allowed to practice them. But don't demand us to take down Christmas trees in the airport when you have made the conscious decision to live your life in a Christian based country.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • JDQ

      School holidays should follow government closings – period. No other holidays, including religious observances, should be taken. If parents want to keep their children home for religious observance that is their choice, but to observe one religion's days means doing it for all, and including the children of atheists or agnostics – obviously wrong. The separation of church and state should be complete in order to be fair to all.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:36 am |
    • Sam

      How would you go to attend class on Christmas when its a national public Holiday. Its not about "Religious Clendars". It's about what faith an individual believes in and the celebrations that come with it. Just like the nation celebrates the birth of Christ, the muslims should also be allowed to celebrate their festivals, which by the way are just 2 per year. Now one can say that this country was founded by Christians etc, true, but a lot has changed since then. Slavery has been abolished, Equal rights to Women (which by the way existed in other countries much before US, like the right to vote), Equality for Gays, etc. And being a secular country where one has the right to practise their religion, I think these holidays should be considered. I think because of a few black sheep in the muslim community, altogether people have a wrong image of a "muslim". Pleadse do not be ignorant and lets make these festivals a happy occasion especially for these kids who are US citizens....

      July 1, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • Mike

      Abd al-Latif

      –"Spring Break" almost always includes Easter.

      Spring Break never included Easter because it is always on a Sunday? You can say you are taking a break from a break?

      July 1, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
    • Earnán

      GregB: You mean other than the Quran's EXPLICIT instructions that Muslims make WAR on unbelievers?

      Islam's BLOOD-STAINED history? Not just by those who "misinterpret" the Quran but by Islam's prophet Mohammed PERSONALLT making war on Jews, Christians and other unbelievers.

      Islam's UNBROKEN record of aggressive warfare against other faiths-from the Jews and Animists of 7th century Arabia to the Christians of Palestine, North Africa, Iberia, Syria, Anatolia... The Zoroastrians of Persia. The Buddhists of Afghanistan. The Hindus and Buddhists of what is today Pakistan. The Hindus of India. The Animists of what was once-in Islam's language of bigotry-"Kaffiristan" in modern Afghanistan: where the people where given-only a century ago-the choice of "convert or die by the sword" at the hands of Islamic fanatics.

      Hundreds of Yazidis and thousands of Christians have been murdered in Iraq within the last few years for not being Muslim.

      Hundreds of Christians have been murdered in Pakistan within the last few years for not being Muslim.

      Hundreds of Buddhists have been murdered in Thailand within the last few years for not being Muslim.

      You stack up enough murdered people and-believe it or not-a PATTERN starts to emerge.

      "Islam will not live peacefully and equitably alongside any other faith. It demands submission or death from all others."

      Submit or die, Greg. That's your choice.

      Me, I plan to die awful hard.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
    • pilgrimsoul

      I don't know if they could figure out a way to do this for schools, but I really like how my husband's work handles this. They give everyone a floating paid holiday for them to choose which day is important to them. I know this would probably be difficult for teachers' lesson planning, etc., but it seems like a good compromise.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
    • Paul

      Hey Islam your going through what Christianity went through very dark time... word of advice get your act together and crack down on the so called "minority" extremist. if their a minority like you all say then it should be easier to handle this situation with extreme islam! cause i tell you what its not going to take more that 2 more 9-11 before your religion becomes under attack as a whole... and thats just the truth... i believe Islam is peace but actions speak louder than words HANDLE YOUR SO CALLED "MINORITY EXTREMIST" IN YOUR religion...

      July 1, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
    • Paul

      In the state of New York schools recognize the Jewish holidays Yom Kippur and Rosh Hoshannah (please forgive me if I mispelled). If these two days are recognized I see no reason not to recognize the major Muslim holidays as well.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      Holidays are cultural. My parents were not religious, but they celebrated Christmas and Easter holidays because the family gathered; the huge majority of Americans have this cultural background. Some culture is necessary.. People in Ameirca fight against even national holidays: most businesses do not get days off for President's Day, Veteran's Day, or Martin Luther King's birthday, and these holidays pertain to all of America. We do not celebrate Jewish holidays (except maybe in New York City), nor any of the Indian, Chinese, African, or even other Christian holidays (such as the Eastern Orthodox holidays; there are many more religious holidays on the Christian calendar than Christmas and Easter). If you add Muslim holidays, most businesses will protest, the same way they do on some of the national holidays. But there is another agenda here: you might be asking us to remove cultural holidays such as Christmas and Easter. The evidence is clear: recently, many American museums have been renovated, and near the entrance is a display about Islam, but the Christian displays have been removed or relegated to far back in the museum. (I'm referring to the Brooklyn Museum, and the Cincinnati museum, among others.) But replacing our cultural heritage may only cause irritation, especially if you do this not only in museums visited by a minority of people, but affecting everybody. What I cannot understand is why the Muslim community would seek to irritate the rest of us.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
    • Andrew

      Very true. where r the Templars and Richard el de lionheart win ya need em.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • Bonnie

      I have to disagree with this writer about the school days being observed. I am Jewish. All my life I have been "forced" to be off from school/work for Christmas, but for my holidays, had to resort to using vacation days at work or just missing two days of school per year to celebrate Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. If we do this for Muslims, then every faith represented wil want this and what does that mean to our children?

      In my humble opinion, give no "religious" based holidays at all to school children. Let everyone take days as they need to without forcing anyone to observe something not relavant to them.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
    • TruthBTold

      I know, let's just close the schools down – all together – and move quicker to third world status; because, 1) It's a burden on the economy as we, clearly, don't have the money to continue educating future generations; and 2) It doesn't appear they're learning anything anyway, except how to harass little children and make their lives as miserable as possible for writing on their desks. Ergo, you kill/destroy two children – I mean two birds – with one stone.

      Just like any other third world country: NO EDUCATION; NO EMPLOYMENT; NO FUTURE aside from a robust penal system engaged in martial law. Way to go America; what a plan?

      July 1, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • sensible1

      What about hindu, jewish and any other religious holiday ...? Why bring religion into the picture at all ...? Keep religion personal. To yourself, within your home. Why do the rest of us have to observe your holiday ...? This is a country of laws above all else, religion is kept away from the public square. I can't believe how Politically correct the west including the united states has become. It's amazing how religious folks especially followers of islam get away with playing the victim card. Why do you have to pray in public – why can't you go home and pray?? The vast majority of people in the country do not want to turn this into 1 giant religious country! And you really don't have to look far to understand what i'm getting at – take a look at what political correctness has gotten europe especially britain into ... There are so many challenges facing this country and the world and the last thing we really need is to give religion more importance than it deserves. Keep it private. Quit injecting it into public life and expecting the rest of society to simply 'be ok with it'. And yes it is important to speak out about this nonsense. If folks like you believe that u have the right to pray wherever the heck you want to in public and ask for schools to observe holidays at your convenience, then the rest of us have the right to question this nonsense. And kudos to the mayor for saying no to this. If you feel offended, too bad. 'No' doesn't imply he's anti religion or anti islam. It just mean he's pro-common sense and pro secularism.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
    • Mr Yogi Berra

      I wonder what Bloomberg thinnks about schools being open on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.....hmmm
      What a POS. Typical.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
    • Larry in CA

      When Muslims all over the world scream in ecstasy when 3000 innocent people were slaughtered in 2001 at the WTC it's kinda hard to want to appease you. I saw no such horror from the Muslim communities after the attack, except a few trying to escape the American rage after the murders. When Islam's qua ran explicitly states it's goal of world domination and conversion of all to Islam or face death and the status of "dhimmi" (underclass subservient to Muslims it's a little hard to identify with you. When a guy tries to set off a massive car-bomb in Times Square, we are a little upset with your religion. When Muslims decide to join the 21st century and move out of the Dark Ages perhaps we can have a dialog. When Muslims treat women as equals with all the rights of a man, we might feel a little better about you. When the followers of the "religion of peace" stop cutting heads off in Gaza and in most Arab states and hanging them (often other Muslims) from the nearest lamp post we might start easing up. Until all of that happens we will not appease you, we will see you as barbarians. It is a shame that it has to be that way, but your own leaders, i.e. Hamas (whom Gazan's overwhelmingly voted in as the govt in Gaza) Hizbullah, the Mullahs in Iran, etc, etc., have brought this upon you. Your fight should be with them, not with the school board who isn't recognizing your holidays. Time to get your priorities straight and then we can talk. Oh, and by the way, this isn't London, we will not be recognizing Sharia law anytime soon, despite the wishes of our "president". You see, the people of America elect our leaders democratically, so Obama won't be there to kiss your rings and bow before you for very long. Enjoy it while you have it.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
    • jonathan

      lets declare everyday a holiday and quit school altogether

      July 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • Hutch

      Greg, have you read the Quran? I thought not. It calls for the elimination of all people not of Islam faith. I have yet to find that anywhere in the 66 books of the bible. The two where peace are concerned are not equal.

      July 2, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
    • My3kGT

      If you want celebrate Islamic holidays then please feel free to return to whichever Islamic nation you prefer. Why don't we celebrate Buddhist holidays, Hindu holidays, Snake Handler and any other religion you can imagine holidays? This is exactly what what separation of Church and State is all about.

      July 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
    • Kelly

      I am a Christian...we have taken away ALL of the Christian rituals from our schools...including the word Christmas!!! No religion is to be brought into our schools...not even Muslim.

      July 3, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
    • Dennis

      One in every 8 kids are Muslim in NYC schools.If you are truly Muslim,then this might be worthy.If you are Black Muslim,then you are merely a member of a racist hate group not worthy of this recognition.There is a distinct difference between the two groups.One is a true believer in Islam,the others are bigots.

      July 4, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
    • yusakhar

      I am a Jew. I attended public school in New Jersey; over half my class were Jews. Nobody ever dreamed of asking the school system to shut down for Jewish holidays, because there is no reason that the State of New Jersey should observe Jewish rituals or special days. We didn't attend school on Jewish holidays, and everyone understood why, just as Muslims are at liberty to absent themselves from school on Muslim holidays. It is profoundly abhorrent of American values to demand that others observe one's own traditions; it is enough that each is free to observe his own, and that freedom is deeply imbeded in the Constitution. The author is WAY off base, and unfortunately he is not alone, since many Muslim organizations (e.g. CAIR) campaign to force US institutions to adjust themselves to Muslim strictures. They will not succeed; the US is not England.

      July 5, 2010 at 6:32 am |
    • melissa

      God Willing, it will pass! It is a step in the right direction.

      July 6, 2010 at 10:05 am |
    • Someone

      Islam is a peaceful religion: really? Immediate violent jihad is waged if you doubt it.
      Muhammad is a messenger of God? Satanic fatwa is awarded if you doubt it.
      Islam respect women? We whip them if they doubt it.
      Islam respect other religions? We demolish their temples and deities. There is no deity but allah.
      Islam respect followers of other religions? We kill them they are infidels.
      Muslims are loyal to the country where they live in? We break the country if we are large enough in number. Sometimes we send our sons to liberate our brothers and sometimes invite foreign muslim brothers to liberate us.
      Muslims are suppressed in non-muslim countries? We don't suppress non-muslims, we have cleansed them long ago.
      Muslims don't get jobs? We don't get jobs even we are so learned, even when we are Hafiz (memorized kooran by heart). Even when our children are so intelligent, we keep brainwashing them since their births.
      Muslims integrate with locals? What is the problem if we wear hanging Pyjamas even in Alaska (muslims in arabia were used to wear pyjamas enough above the ankle in order to avoid tearing at the bottom due to friction with the sand) .
      Muslims are hated by others? We don't hate non-muslims, allah hates them.
      Kooran is the words of God? Who dares to doubt it, even if it is full of satanic verses. We have traded our brains with solidarity.
      So many muslims are killed worldwide daily in militant activities? Who cares, we are the fastest growing religion. We produce 20 children per woman; fodder for the canons.
      Muslims are modern and civilized people? Thank to allah, who has given us oil and sharia laws. Having oil we don't need to use our brains (if there is any) to get money for modernisation. And we have provided eternity to our civilization after anchoring it with Sharia.
      Muslims retaliate when they are oppressed? Who says, muslims start a conflict, we have right to hurt others, non-muslims are already guilty of not believing in muhammad.
      World evaluates you by your behavior, not by your name. Please correct your behavior first and be civilized so that world does not need to civilize you with bamboo sticks. It's high time to bring muhammad and islam to justice. Also, in view of the latest developments, it seems that muslims world wide are persona non grata. It is in their interest that they should leave non-muslim countries as soon as possible, otherwise, I can foresee that days are coming soon when muslims will be kicked out from these countries forcibly and bluntly, the way it is happening in many parts of the world.

      July 6, 2010 at 11:18 am |
    • Bubba

      "Hippocrates" Too funny. He's trying to say 'hypocrites.'

      July 6, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • bubbah

      "so what happens in the schools for Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur?"

      In NYC (and some surrounding areas) these are school holidays (if they are days yo're not supposed to work). NYC was at one point about 25% Jewish (and I'd guess that more than 50% of the teachers were Jewish until pretty recently if not still), so this should come as no surprise. Chanukka is a holiday where you're expected to work, just get home before sun down. Ditto most of the days of Passover. It's only two days and if it really is 12% of the school population....I dunno, it seems those days could be added/made up elsewhere.

      July 6, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
    • bubbah

      "Normal Christians don't kill people they disagree with we pray for them."

      Up until 300 or 400 years ago, "normal christians" were very much into killing infidels and burning heretics, no so much praying for them. As Islam is about 600 or so years younger than Christianity, I guess they are just a few hundred years behind in terms of the evolution of some of these ideas (or at least the fundamentalists are). So, I guess in the year 2500 or so everything will be fine and dandy.

      July 6, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
    • Jifna

      One question comes to my mind, does Muslim schools in the Middle East close for Christian holidays? Christians are not allowed to pray in Saudi Arabia and they don’t even have a church. Can we request the Saudi’s to build a church?

      July 7, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • John

      Well, My wife works as a nurse and with a muslim . She can pray every night at 6pm..(on the Clock) My wife ask for sunday morning off so she could to Mass( Catholic) Her request was declined.... America is discrimatory when it comes to religion. God forbid you make a joke about Alia .. But no problem with joke of Christ...This country has become weak, and Pitiful . Try becoming a citizen of another country...America, wake up, lets take care of our own,,, NO holidays PERIOD! That will settle all this .B.S

      July 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
    • XIAOMIN

      If every religion asks for such recognition, the schools in America might as well close for holidays all year around.

      July 14, 2010 at 1:08 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.