My Fight to Make Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha Public Holidays


Image by Crea Park from Pixabay

In New York, organizers and advocacy groups, such as the Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group, Muslim American Society, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays in New York City have fought valiantly, for years, towards establishing Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha as public holidays in New York City and New York State.

Parents and organizers have pressured Mayor de Blasio to acknowledge the Muslim holidays in public schools, giving the two days off to students.

On a broader level, hundreds of volunteers and advocates have shown up in Albany, New York for years to pass such legislation statewide. There have been two prior versions of the bill to amend Section 24 of the general construction law to recognize Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha as public holidays in the state of New York.

Today, there lies the newest version of this bill in Albany. Assembly Bill A01835 and Senate bill S01066, sponsored by Assemblymember Nathalia Fernandez (AD-80) and Senator Alessandra Biaggi (SD-34).

I believe that this bill is long overdue.

There are hundreds of thousands of Muslims in New York, and we owe it to acknowledge and respect the religious holidays and those who observe them. New York City progressed when public schools established days off for the holiday, but we cannot stop there.

With the CUNY system alone, it wasn’t until just mere months ago, thanks to the efforts of Samia Ahmed, a student at Brooklyn College, alongside many other Muslim students when CUNY acknowledged the religious holidays and granted students the days off so they’re able to celebrate with their families.

The dilemma of having to choose between praying and celebrating on the Eid holidays or going to class and taking exams is a very real experience that we should not be subjected to. Furthermore, this is an issue that goes beyond just the education system. It applies to municipal offices and non-essential workplaces as well. Therefore, it is imperative that we pass A01835/S01066.

The freedom of religion, which is a constitutional right, should also include the freedom to celebrate the religion.

I’ve taken aim at this issue, not only because it is personal but also because it simply is asking for fairness. Students and workplaces get designated days off for religious holidays already. It’s not a radical concept. The demand is simply that the state recognizes Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha the way they do holidays like Christmas.

With that, I looked up the newest bill to see which state legislators support it. I’ve authored a spreadsheet where I list all 150 assembly members and 63 senators, with their recorded positions to their side. If they are not cosponsors to the bill, I include their district and Albany office numbers so that people may easily contact their state representatives and request their cosponsor.

As of September 21, the bill had 13 cosponsors in the Assembly and 1 in the Senate. I published my spreadsheet on social media on September 22. Thus, we’ve gained momentum and awareness, which is exactly what the goal was. With that momentum, the bill now has 18 cosponsors in the Assembly and 5 in the Senate. In addition, we’ve gotten the pledged support from additional members who are not listed as official cosponsors as of yet. Some of the current cosponsors have been consistent supporters of the bill in its previous versions, while for others, it is their first time.

The fight continues, as we are far from done. Muslim advocacy groups continue to fight to keep the dedication and organizing consistent and alive, and this fight cannot be done alone.

I believe that this time, the bill can pass. It must.

We have a Democratic supermajority in both state chambers, and we now have social media on our side. I urge students to take part in the effort, utilizing all available resources, and garnering the necessary support to pass A01835/S01066, which establishes Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha as public holidays in New York State.

(Tanbir Chowdhury)