Newly-minted Mayor of New York City Bill De Blasio is calling for school closures on two Muslim holidays and the Lunar New Year.
Eid al-Fitr, which marks the last day of Ramadan, Eid al-Adha, also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, and the Lunar New Year, which celebrates the first day of the Chinese Calendar Year, were all given the go-ahead; but De Blasio passed over the Hindu festival Diwali. Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights–which celebrates life, its enjoyment, and goodness–has historical origins dating back to Indian “harvest” festivals.
Dr. Shashi Shah of the Association of Indians in America was saddened that the mayor failed to recognize Diwali: “We are disappointed. We’ve been trying for a long time… It’s very important for the community.”
It is unclear why De Blasio granted two holidays for Muslims and denied the appeals by Indians for one. Estimates of the number of Muslims in New York City vary between 200,000 and 1,000,000. A website called A Journey Through NYC Religions estimates the number to be 600,000–roughly seven percent of the population. Still, NYC has the most Hindu adherents of any city in the United States. Moreover, there are more than 80,000 Hindu adherents in the greater area of New York, NY-NJ-PA. For years, ethnic groups have lobbied for all four holidays to be recognized.
De Blasio is unsure when the school holiday status will take effect: “It is complicated in terms of logistics and school calendar and budget. But it’s something I want to get done in a reasonable time frame.” Former Mayor Bloomberg opposed all of the school closures, saying kids should not miss more school.