City Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. visited the Dar Al-Dawah Mosque on Friday, July 10, to discuss concerns facing the Astoria Muslim community.
The meeting came after Resolution 1281, co-sponsored by Vallone, was passed by the City Council by an overwhelming vote on June 30.
The resolution calls for Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha, two of Islam’s most important holidays, to be observed as public school holidays. “Resolutions are nonbinding, but it does send a strong message to the mayor and the chancellor that the City Council wants this to happen, and we hope they take that message seriously,” said Vallone.
Currently, the public school calendar observes religious holidays for Christianity and Judaism. With more than 120,000 Muslim public school students out of just over one million students in the New York City public school system, Islam represents the third-largest religious identification for students, behind the aforementioned two. “Their religious holidays need to be respected and incorporated into the school calendar,” Vallone said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has expressed opposition to the idea. “He doesn’t believe it can be done without extending the school year,” Vallone said of Bloomberg. “He also said, ‘What if other groups came in with the same request, what would happen?’ If another religion gets to the point where they comprise ten percent of the school population, that’s when we’ll deal with it.” Vallone added, “Initially, I had the same concerns. After meeting with the Muslim coalition, I believe that this can be done and should be done.”
“Last year, a test was scheduled on one of the two holidays. The school system, to its credit, does all it can to take into account the observance of these holidays, but I think that in this situation official recognition of these religious holidays is merited,” Vallone said. The issue is complicated by the fact that the holidays are not observed on a set date, but on the occurrence of the sighting of the crescent moon.
More than 800,000 Muslims reside in New York City. Vallone’s district is home to a large Muslim community.