New York’s Indian-American State Senator Kevin Thomas introduces bill to make Hindu, Sikh, Muslim school holidays

Ela Dutt

March 05, 2019

Originally published in News India Times on March 05, 2019.

New York State Senator Kevin Thomas, the first and only Indian-American in Albany in the history of the Empire State, is sponsoring a bill that establishes school holidays for people of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh faiths among others.

“It’s about time our diverse population gets the opportunity to celebrate its holidays,” Sen. Thomas told Desi Talk.

The bill identifies Diwali, Vaisakhi, Onam, Eid al Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and Good Friday, and calls for amending the current list of cultural/religious school holidays for the whole state rather than the current restricted areas where Diwali is recognized.

However, it is not all encompassing, and allows school districts with population equal to or greater than seven and half percent of those cultural/religious groups to declare these days as holidays.

Currently, New York City schools recognize the Chinese Lunar new Year (Feb. 5, 2019), and Eid al-Fitr (June 4, 2019), but the demand for Diwali was not accepted despite a push by the Indian-American community last year, according to Suhag Shukla, executive director of Hindu American Foundation.

Sen. Thomas however, wants these cultural and religious festivals to be recognized state-wide. How successful he will be is not clear, though the movement within the community for such school days has been growing.

“Parents call and ask us what to do to get Diwali off for their kids,” Shukla said. “We advise them to work with the district to get it on the school calendar,” she added.

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