The Philadelphia School District will add two Muslim holidays to its calendar and the city will create a task force to study doing the same for the city’s calendar, officials announced Tuesday.
“Philadelphia’s history is based on being a place where religious freedom is part of its founding ethos,” Mayor Kenney said at a news conference in City Hall. “Our city was built on the idea that while we may be different in nationality and ethnicity, the city welcomes all to worship and practice the faiths of our culture or our choosing.”
The two holidays are Eid al-Fitr, celebrated after the month-long observance of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, celebrated at the conclusion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
The dates on which the holidays are celebrated change each year because Islam follows a lunar calendar. But this year Eid al-Fitr will fall in July and Eid al-Adha will take place in September.
Because the calendar for the 2016-17 school year has already been finalized, students, staff and teachers who wish to take the day off will be given excused absences, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said.
Hite said in the following years, the holidays will be treated like any other.
Because various Muslim sects determine the dates of the two holidays differently, Michael Rashid, chair of the Philadelphia Eid Coalition, said Muslim religious leaders from communities across the city have agreed on dates to be included on the school district calendar for the next five years.
In the 2017-18 school year, Eid al-Fitr falls during the summer and Eid al-Adha on a Saturday, meaning the first new holiday that the entire district will have off will be Eid al-Fitr on June 14, 2018.
The change could also impact charter schools, which Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. Hite said typically follow the district calendar.
Philadelphia, which has an estimated 200,000 Muslims, would not be the first city school district to add the holidays to the official calendar. Schools in New York City added them to the academic calendar last year.
Kenney said making the days city holidays will require buy-in from the city’s municipal unions. He said the newly created Mayor’s Task Force on Cultural Inclusion will “first and foremost” will focus on that issue but that the focus could broaden long term.
“I think it’s wide open and multifaceted,” Kenney said. “We have to take into account how society sometimes ostracizes and eliminates people from the mainstream because of extraneous kind of reasons.”
Philadelphia city workers currently have 11 paid holidays, two of them religious: Christmas and Good Friday. The School District also recognizes Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur.
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