Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
By Tricia L. Nadolny, Staff Writer
As Philadelphia City Council returned Thursday for its first meeting of the new term, bills were offered that would add teeth to minority hiring, look hard at how schools have been hurt by years of budget cuts, and shed light on the businesses that receive big tax subsidies.
But the meeting’s most compelling moment came when a nonbinding resolution was offered suggesting that two Muslim holidays become official city and School District holidays.
Speaking before a chamber packed with men wearing Muslim prayer caps and women wearing hijabs, Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. said an acquaintance had questioned his timing, considering the recent shooting of a Philadelphia police officer by a man who said he was acting on behalf of Islam and the tension surrounding calls for Muslims to be banned from entry to the United States.
“I thought on it. And I said words that I’m paraphrasing from another great man. ‘If not now, when? If not us, who?’ ” Jones said, referring to Hillel the Elder, the Jewish religious leader of the first century B.C. Supporters, part of an alliance that calls itself the Philadelphia Eid Coalition, recited the quote with him.
After Council passed the resolution on a voice vote with no dissent, many of those supporters celebrated by saying, “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is the greatest.”The resolution urges the city and the School District to make the holidays official, moves that would have to be made separately.
It received initial support from Mayor Kenney, who said that the city was studying what the added holidays would cost but that “from a philosophical, fairness standpoint,” he agreed.
“I understand and appreciate the Muslim community’s interest in this and their feeling of being left out,” he said. “I would like to get to that point where we recognize all religious holidays or no religious holidays. If you want to do some, you have to do everybody’s.”
Jones, who is Muslim, also took his request to the School Reform Commission (SRC) Thursday night, where he told the meeting that Muslims feel like “second-class” citizens. SRC Chairwoman Marjorie Neff could not immediately be reached for comment.
The two holidays in question are Eid al-Fitr, celebrated after the monthlong observance of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, celebrated at the conclusion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The holidays, the dates of which change each year, because Islam follows a lunar calendar, will take place in September and July, respectively, this year.
Philadelphia, which has an estimated 200,000 Muslims, would not be the first city to add the holidays to the official calendar. Schools in New York City added them to the academic calendar last year.
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.