New York State Senator calls for observation of Hindu, Muslim & Sikh holidays in schools

ALBANY, New York—Primary school kids might be paying close attention to a bill recently introduced on the legislative floor in Albany, New York’s state capital. An Indian American state senator in New York has introduced a bill calling for the Empire State’s public schools to observe Diwali, Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, Good Friday, Onam and Vaisakhi as school holidays.

            New York State Sen. Kevin Thomas, who represents the 6th Senatorial District, which includes Nassau County towns of Garden City, Hempstead and Levittown, introduced the bill. Thomas is the first – and currently only – Indian American serving in the New York State Senate.

            “The purpose of the bill is to avail students from different religious and cultural backgrounds to celebrate their traditional festivities with their family and community,” language of Senate Bill 4038 (S. 4038) stated.

            S. 4038 would specifically allow for school districts where at least 7.5 percent of jurisdiction’s ethnic and cultural groups declare the cited days as a holiday.

            New York is home to more than one million Muslims and 80,000 Sikhs, according to Thomas’s bill. Another two million people celebrate Diwali and Onam, the bill added.

            “Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Diwali, Vaisakhi, Good Friday, and Onam are primary festivals for these communities and are widely celebrated throughout the state. They also serve as community building exercise and medium through which traditions and cultures are handed down to next generations,” the language of S. 4038 stated. “This bill would allow children from these communities to forge stronger bonds with family and friends with the opportunity to learn and appreciate their respective cultural and religious heritage.”

            Hindus, Jains and Sikhs are among those who celebrate Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights. Diwali, in short, commemorates the victory of good over evil (light over darkness).

            Onam, another Hindu holiday, is celebrated in the Indian state of Kerala. It is a harvest festival honoring a local king.

            Eid al-Fitr, meanwhile, is a significant holiday for Muslims - the day signifies the end of Ramadan, which is a month of holy fasting. The second Eid – Eid al-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice – is the more significant holiday as it commemorates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son to demonstrate his obedience to God’s command.

            Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi each April; the holiday marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year. Vaisakhi almost times perfectly well with Good Friday, which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

            The bill is currently in committee.