Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., and Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite announced that two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, will be added to the district’s official school calendar.
“William Penn established Philadelphia as a city for religious freedom,” Jones said. “Today we continue our founder’s creed by the recognition of the Eids for our Islamic community.”
Eid al-Fitr is celebrated after the month of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha is observed at the conclusion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. These two holidays are considered to be the among the holiest in Islam.
This policy will go into effect during the 2016-17 school year, with staff, students and parents being reminded about the policy on excused absences that allow students to observe holidays.
“I’m honored and proud to announce that the School District fully intends to honor the Eid celebrations for the many Muslim students and staff [who] celebrate these holidays,” said Hite in a statement.
In April, Philadelphia’s Mastery Charter Schools incorporated the same Muslim holidays in their academic calendar.
The Philadelphia Eid Coalition has advised and challenged the city and its public schools to recognize the Muslim holidays since 2015. Jones also sponsored a resolution, which the City Council unanimously approved in January, advocating for the the Muslim holidays to be added to the city and school calendars.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia metropolitan area is home to more than 200,000 Muslims, one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in the United States. These numbers equate to approximately 20 percent of Philadelphia public school students in grades K-12.
Mayor Jim Kenney also announced that he is forming the Mayor’s Task Force on Cultural Inclusion, which will examine the possibility of adding the two Muslim holidays to the city’s calendar among other issues; these changes would have to be ultimately approved by the city labor unions, according to the city administration.
“The task force will study and produce recommendations regarding the expansion of religious observance days, the education of city management and employees to the religious sensitivities of their coworkers, how the courts and judicial system can better acknowledge religious days, and ways best disseminate information on religious holidays to the public including local businesses and employers," a city spokesperson wrote.
“In this election cycle of unprecedented anti-Muslim bigotry, Mayor Kenney and the City of Philadelphia are to be commended for not being intimidated by the fear-mongering voices of hate and division,” the Philadelphia Chapter Executive Director of Council on American-Islamic Relations Jacob Bender said.
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