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No school on Muslim holidays

Some districts in New Jersey and Michigan have recognized the holidays; others don’t.

NEW YORK — Moneeb Hassan remembers having to choose between a final exam in American history or celebrating the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha. In the end, he chose both.

Hassan, 17, is one of thousands of Muslim students in the city who must perform a balancing act between his academic and religious obligations during his holidays. But the nation’s largest school district hasn’t sanctioned official Muslim holidays.

“People came to this country for freedom of religion,” Hassan said. “We’re just asking for fair and equal treatment.”

Muslim activists lobbying to add the holy days to the school calendar — which takes school off for Christmas and the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — were heartened this week by a City Council resolution supporting the observance of the two holidays — Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

A handful of school districts in New Jersey and Michigan have recognized Muslim school holidays, while efforts in Baltimore and Connecticut have failed recently.

New York City has the nation’s largest school system. A 2008 study by Columbia University’s Teachers College estimates at least 10 percent of the city’s 1.1 million students are Muslim.

Supporters say the school board needs to be inclusive of the growing number of Muslim students in New York.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke out against approving the holidays this week, saying it would open the door to other religious groups asking for days off.

“One of the problems you have with a diverse city is that if you close the schools for every single holiday there won’t be any school,” Bloomberg told reporters on Tuesday. “Educating our kids requires time in the classroom and that’s the most important thing to us more than anything else.”

A day later, he sounded like he might be willing to give it some thought, saying that he would take a closer look at the resolution. But he still stuck to his original point that honoring every religious holiday isn’t practical.

Eid al-Fitr, or the Festival of Breaking the Fast, marks the end of the sacred month of Ramadan. Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, is celebrated in the fall and commemorates the prophet Ibrahim’s faith in being willing to sacrifice his son.

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