In Andrea Peyser’s New York Post column last week titled “Good Sense Takes a Holiday,” the columnist known for covering scandals in the entertainment world expressed everything but good sense. Instead she pointed fingers while sarcastically dismissing the religious observances of over 10% of New York City's public school students.
Peyser claims that respecting a student’s religious observance is affecting the ability of our youth to learn and threatening our education system's ability to function. In particular, respecting the religious observance of Muslim students.
According to Peyser, political correctness and appeasing Muslims—not an increased police presence, prison-like school buildings, the use of prescription pills to address learning problems, an inability to promote teacher accountability, overcrowded classrooms, bullying, increased budget cuts and school closures—are a threat to the learning environment of public school students.
Peyser continues to display her lack of ‘good sense’ and sincere concern by comparing Mother’s Day, Halloween, and even dinosaurs to the observance of Muslim holidays in public schools. In doing so she conveniently ignores religious holidays such as Easter, Christmas, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover which are observed by the New York City Department of education with nearly three weeks of combined vacation time. On those holidays members of the Jewish and Christian community, including schoolteachers and students, get to spend time with their families for their respective religious observances.
So how is it that the request for a similar recognition for Muslim teachers and students lacks 'good sense'? So much so that Peyser decided to leave behind her usual columns about Lindsay Lohan’s nail polish to write about our ailing educational system.
At this point it should be obvious that Peyser lacks any credibility or credentials to provide substantive dialogue about our education system. In fact her only interest in this subject is in attacking democratic mayoral candidates and the Muslim communities they are addressing--a New York Post favorite pastime.
Muslims are not asking for special treatment. Our community is only asking to be afforded the same opportunity to celebrate our holidays with our families as our brethren in the Jewish and Christian faith communities.
Muslim holidays, just like Jewish holidays, are based on a lunar calendar and vary from year to year. This means the two days out of the year Muslims are wishing to celebrate often coincide with weekends, other religious holidays, or fall during the summer vacation (which will be the case for the next 5 years).
Suggesting as Peyser put it, Muslims should “just take off” is also not a reasonable alternative.
When members of the Jewish community were given the same option, some districts saw nearly 80-90% of its population absent from school. This reality would be a greater threat to the learning environment and a greater waste of our tax dollars than actually recognizing the holiday as vacation.
What’s perhaps even more troubling about Peyser’s claims is her support of Bloomberg’s position that “You cannot have a day off from school for every single holiday, or we’d have no school.’’ As a Muslim, I am still trying to understand what the Mayor meant. So it’s apparently okay for me to miss school in order for my Jewish and Christian classmates to celebrate religious holidays with their families (which I am more than glad to do), but it’s not okay for my classmates to do the same for me (which I am sure they would be glad to do)? Who decides whose education and religion should be given the preferential treatment? Is it my education, or my religion, or both that’s less important than that of someone who is not Muslim?
We hope New York Post readers with 'good sense' will know these things as New York City continues to grow and evolve into a city of many faiths—all of them respected equally. American Muslims are a proud part of this city, and as active and engaged citizens it should be no shock that government officials elected to represent us address our concerns—including recognizing our religious holidays. In doing so, the candidates and all elected officials are doing something Peyser obviously is not--displaying “good sense.”
Mariyum Luqman was born in Brooklyn and currently serves as communications and outreach intern at the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY).