Philadelphia Recognizes Columbus Day, But Not Any Muslim Holidays

That may soon change.

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. in City Council’s chambers. | Photo by Jeff Fusco

If you’re a city employee who wants to celebrate the Muslim holidays, you currently have to decide whether to use a personal or vacation day to take off work. Unlike Christmas, Good Friday or even Columbus Day, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha aren’t recognized by the city.

City Councilman Curtis Jones is hoping to change that. On Thursday, he will introduce a bill that would ask to make Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha official municipal holidays. A group known as the Philadelphia Eid Coalition has been petitioning since last year to have the holidays observed.

“It’s a fairness issue,” said Michael Rashid, former CEO of AmeriHealth Caritas and organizer of Philadelphia Eid Coalition. “There is a substantial Muslim population in Philadelphia and they feel marginalized.”

The city is home to about 200,000 Muslims, 85 percent of which are African-American, according to several reports.

Rashid said it’s not just Muslim city workers who are at a disadvantage. Muslim children in local schools often feel excluded from their classmates as well, he said, since Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha aren’t recognized by the School District of Philadelphia. Conversely, city schools close on Christmas, Good Friday, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (The city government does not currently recognize any Jewish holidays, however.)

“This city was founded on religious tolerance by William Penn, it is needed more now than ever,” Jones said in a video on the Philadelphia Eid Coalition’s YouTube channel. “We’re trying to work with the city of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia to provide that holiday access to them like they do everyone else.”

Jones, who practices Islam, told Citified that he hopes that his proposal will bring about a deeper understanding of the religion and of Muslims. Rashid, likewise, said, “What we want to get across to people is that Muslims are just like you. There are Muslim workers and Muslim students and businessmen. We are a part of the fabric of Philadelphia.”

Last March, New York City’s school system began recognizing Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Other school districts, including those in Cambridge, Mass., South Brunswick, N.J. and Burlington, Vt., have also put the holidays on their calendar.

After introducing the bill in City Council Thursday, Jones said he will petition the School Reform Commission to recognize the two holidays.