Oct. 4, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A Queens college student and organizer is fighting for New York state to make Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha public holidays.
Tanbir Chowdhury, a 20-year-old Jamaica resident and John Jay College student, is calling on state legislators to sign onto to a bill to make the Muslim holidays — which celebrate the end of Ramadan — state holidays.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Alessandra Biaggi in the Senate and Assembly Member Nathalia Fernandez in the Assembly, would make the two days public holidays in New York, meaning all state/ municipal offices and facilities — including public schools — would be closed on those two days.
Currently, the only religious holiday that is designated a state holiday in New York is Christmas. While Eid is observed in New York City public schools, the bill would require all public schools across the state to give students and teachers time off for both Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
“We have Eid as a public school holiday in New York City now, but for the most part of my K to 12 [grade] life, it wasn’t,” Chowdhury told the Queens Post. “My family had to decide whether to send me to school or celebrate the holidays and pray.”
He said that the hundreds of thousands of Muslim Americans across the state deserve time off from school to properly observe their faith.
Chowdhury has started calling up and emailing lawmakers asking them to support the bill.
He published a spreadsheet last Wednesday to show New Yorkers where their representatives stand on the bill. The document includes each legislator’s office phone number so those who want to see Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha recognized as state holidays can call them up and ask for their support. Others soon joined Chowdhury in making calls.
Since releasing the document, Chowdhury has already gotten a number of legislators to support this bill and even a few to sign on as co-sponsors.
When he started the bill had just one co-sponsor in the Senate. Now it has five.
Senators Andrew Gourdarnes, John Lui, Jessica Ramos and Michael Gianaris all joined as co-sponsors after Chowdhury began campaigning for the bill.
“Between the time the spreadsheet was released to today, we’ve gotten 10 new co-sponsors — four [of whom] are in the Senate,” Chowdhury said Wednesday.
He said he was surprised, and pleased, to see how quickly it gained momentum.
“Two people mentioned Senator Jessica Ramos in the comments [on social media],” he said. “She liked both of their replies and then the next day, she was a co-sponsor on the bill.”
On the Assembly side, Chowdhury convinced Assembly Members Jenifer Rajkumar, Zohran Mamdani, Jessica González-Rojas and Kenny Burgos to co-sponsor the bill.
The Assembly bill now has 15 co-sponsors and Chowdhury said at least two more members have promised to become co-sponsors as well.
The bill, however, will not be taken up until the legislative session begins again in January.
“Right now, the most I can do is try to get as many co-sponsors prior to session starting,” Chowdhury said.
Two prior versions of the bill died in earlier legislative sessions, but Chowdhury believes this time will be different.
He said there wasn’t enough commotion and advocacy around the prior bills. In fact, he didn’t know there was already a bill on the floor to make Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha public holidays until he started researching.
“It was hard to find people discussing it — it was hard to find the bill itself,” Chowdhury said. “Someone from an assembly member’s office had to tell me the bill was already on the floor.”
He plans to keep making noise about the importance of the bill to Muslim New Yorkers, especially when the session begins.
“There’s no excuse why this bill should not pass in a Democratic supermajority frankly,” he said. “I think we have an amazing shot to get it passed this session if we keep the momentum and demand up.”
Chowdhury said the bill is long overdue and would be a great win for the Muslim community.