By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As Muslims celebrate Eid al Fitr, today, one of only two religious holidays for the faith, efforts are underway to make it more a part of mainstream American culture and, at least, a school holiday in Philadelphia.
Eid is the feast of breaking the fast at the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. It can be compared to the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur or the Christian holiday of Easter, in that it’s a celebration after a period of sacrifice and introspection.
But where those holidays bring time off for everybody, Eid rarely does.
Nakia Khaalid would like to change that.
“I would like to have Eid be a national holiday on a calendar. I would like it to be recognized in the whole United States of America so everyone can have the day off just as well as we can,” she tells KYW newsradio.
Khaalid, 24, a dental assistant in Philadelphia, started an online petition and got 23-thousand signatures in the first five days.
Anyone who recalls the decades it took to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday can appreciate that Khaalid has an uphill climb. Though Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States, Muslims are still a small minority, estimated to be about one percent of the population.
That is not true, though, in Philadelphia public schools, according to Jacob Bender, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations’ Philadelphia office.
“We have heard estimates ranging from 10 to 30 percent,” he says. “We think it would be incumbent on the school system and the state legislature to make it a school holiday.”
Bender says Eid is a school holiday in New York and CAIR has begun to work on making it a school holiday here.
Eid won’t fall on a school day, though, until 2019.