New York: Hindu community leaders in the US have expressed their disappointment over a decision by the city administration here of excluding Diwali from its list of school holidays. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced that the city is adding the Muslim holy days of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as holidays in its public school calendar as “respect for one of the great faiths of this earth” and as an “acknowledgment that in a strong society all faiths needed to be respected”.
The announcement has made New York City the largest school district in the nation to take this action. The mayor, however, excluded Diwali from the public school holiday calendar, despite growing calls by the Hindu community to observe the festival given that hundreds of thousands of Indians living in the area celebrate it. Leaders at the advocacy organisation Hindu American Foundation (HAF) expressed deep disappointment with de Blasio’s decision to exclude Diwali from the 2015-16 public school calendars.
“While the addition of two Muslim holidays is commendable, the Mayor’s decision to exclude Diwali, a festival that is celebrated by thousands of Hindu, Jain, and Sikhs in NYC is beyond disappointing,” HAF’s NYC-based Senior Director Sheetal Shah said.
“These communities are a vibrant and integral part of this city and deserve to be able to celebrate their festivals. In excluding Diwali, the Mayor is falling short on his responsibility to equally represent all New Yorkers,” Shah added.
President of the Ganesh Temple in Queens, one of the largest in the region, Uma Mysorekar said the community is “truly disappointed” by the decision.
“Our students should not have to worry about missing school work or exams in order to practice their faith,” she added.
Last year, HAF had joined hands with a broad-based Diwali Coalition of almost 40 organisations and NYC temples that had urged the Mayor to include Diwali alongside two proposed Muslim holidays and the Lunar New Year.
Meanwhile, the New York chapter of Muslim civil liberties group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) welcomed the announcement, saying “Muslim public school students will finally and thankfully no longer be penalised for observing their religious holidays”.