The Philadelphia City Council took steps Thursday to make Muslim residents feel more comfortable in the city’s schools and workplaces. The council passed a nonbinding resolution to make two Muslim holidays official city and school district holidays, Philly.com reported.
The measure was introduced by Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. and asks the city and the Philadelphia School District to add the holidays, decisions that will be made separately. Jones, who is a Muslim, also brought the idea to the School Reform Commission Thursday night. There, he told a crowd that Muslims feel like “second-class” citizens, Philly.com reported.
When presenting his case to the council chamber Thursday, Jones said someone had questioned his timing because the motion to recognize the Muslim holidays comes just a few weeks after the shooting of a Philadelphia police officer by a gunman who said he was acting “in the name of Islam.”
“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, referencing Hillel the Elder, the Jewish religious leader from the first century B.C.
Members of a group called the Philadelphia Eid Coalition recited the quote with him, Philly.com reported. The council passed the resolution on a voice vote without dissent, and many supporters called out “Allahu akbar,” which is Arabic for “God is the greatest.”
If the resolution moves forward, the holidays that would be made official are Eid al-Fitr, which comes at the end of the monthlong holiday of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which Muslims celebrate at the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The dates of the holidays change every year because Islam follows a lunar calendar, but this year they will fall in July and September.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he supports the idea behind the proposal and is having the city study the logistics of adding two holidays.
Kenney said he understands and appreciates “the Muslim community's interest in this and their feeling of being left out,” Philly.com reported. “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.”
Philadelphia, which has about 200,000 Muslims, currently gives municipal workers 11 paid holidays, including Christmas and Good Friday, while the school district also gives days off for the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Other cities have added the Muslim holidays in recent years. In New York, schools added the holidays last year, and a Maryland suburb added them earlier this month.