Holy Traditions: Is the nation ready for Islamic holidays?

Published on Friday, 21 February 2014 23:18 - Written by Rebecca Hoeffner rhoeffner@tylerpaper.com

Two online petitions have been filed to the White House to create federal holidays for two major Islamic holidays, but Muslims across the country disagree about whether it’s a good move.

“I don’t know that it’s a good idea,” said Anwar Khalifa, president of the East Texas Islamic Society. “We get the days off we need.”

The first petition expired in January with only 65,000 of the 100,000 signatures needed for a response from the White House. The latest petition has fewer than 20,000 signatures and was created by a group of middle school students in Virginia, according to an article from the Religion News Service.

The only religiously-affiliated federal holiday is Christmas, which was declared a holiday in 1870.

There were several reasons that Khalifa thought the idea was ill-advised, he said.

“(All Muslims) don’t even agree on the day to celebrate the holiday,” he said.

The Muslim calendar is lunar, which means that the holiday shifts every year. Some Muslims even wait until there is a literal moon sighting for the holiday.

However, some communities with high Muslim populations do recognize Islamic holidays with school closings, such as Dearborn, Mich.; Cambridge, Mass.; Burlington, Vt.; and communities in New Jersey, according the Religion News Service. There has been talk of doing the same in New York City.

But that may not be realistic nationwide. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2010, Muslims made up only 0.8 of the population.

Khalifa said students in East Texas simply ask to have the day off for the religious holiday without an issue.

“I think it would just bring more negative attention to the Islamic community,” he said.