NY Times Op ED: A Better Way to Talk About Faith

Is there a way to overcome religious intolerance?

Given global demographic changes, it’s a vital question. “The most certain prediction that we can make about almost any modern society is that it will be more diverse a generation from now than it is today,” the political scientist Robert D. Putnam has written. “This is true from Sweden to the United States and from New Zealand to Ireland.”

In the United States, the question holds special significance for the simple reason that American society is highly religious and highly diverse and — on matters concerning faith — considerably more politically polarized than a quarter-century ago.

The United States prides itself on welcoming people of different faiths. The Bill of Rights begins with a guarantee of freedom of worship. In 1790, George Washington sent a letter to a Jewish congregation in which he expressed his wish that they “continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants,” and declared that the government “gives to bigotry no sanction.” In 2010, Mayor Bloomberg’s impassioned and courageous defense of the Cordoba House — the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” — became an important addition to a long and noble tradition of inclusion. (It’s a speech worth reading.)

Muslim Students in NYC Rally to Demand School Holidays

Islam is the fastest growing religion in NYC, and according to a Columbia University study, 120,000 of the school’s 1.1 million students are Muslim. But the DOE does not recognize Islamic holidays on the school calendar, and Muslim students who miss school for religious holiday’s have to make up for the schoolwork they missed. Last year the City Council passed a resolution calling for two Muslim holy days, Eid-ul Adha and Eid-ul Fitr, to be added to the school calendar, but Mayor Bloomberg, who has the final say in which holidays are approved, has not taken action…

Muslim Students in NYC Rally to Demand School Holidays

Islam is the fastest growing religion in NYC, and according to a Columbia University study, 120,000 of the school’s 1.1 million students are Muslim. But the DOE does not recognize Islamic holidays on the school calendar, and Muslim students who miss school for religious holiday’s have to make up for the schoolwork they missed. Last year the City Council passed a resolution calling for two Muslim holy days, Eid-ul Adha and Eid-ul Fitr, to be added to the school calendar, but Mayor Bloomberg, who has the final say in which holidays are approved, has not taken action…

Closing Schools for Two Muslims Holidays

The City Council overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on the Department of Education to incorporate two major Muslim holidays into the city school calendar.

The resolution, which passed 50 to 1, bears no legal weight; it is simply a formal request that the DOE schedule school holidays for Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which commemorates Ibrahim’s sacrifice of his son Ishmael.

More than 800,000 Muslims live in the city, and at least 10 percent of the city’s school students are followers of Islam.

“This is an opportunity for the city to uphold American ideals of inclusion and diversity,” said Faiza Ali, community affairs director of the NY branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and a steering committee member of the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays. “The Coalition urges Mayor Bloomberg to ensure that a significant population of Muslim students does not have to make an unfair choice[…]”