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Boston councilor pushes for official city holiday for Eid al-Fitr

City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, who led the charge on making Eid al-Fitr an official city holiday, pictured here.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, who made history last fall when she became the first Muslim elected to Boston’s legislative body, is pushing to make Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, an official city holiday.

The freshman councilor has submitted a resolution calling for such a move on Wednesday’s city council agenda.

“Representation matters,” said Fernandes Anderson during a Tuesday phone interview.

If the city does not work to recognize its Muslim population, she said, it risks further perpetuating ignorance and Islamophobia.

"We have to acknowledge certain traditions," she said.

The resolution is not legally binding, meaning if the council approves it, that does not mean Boston’s public school children will necessarily get the day off or that the city’s 19,000-strong work force will receive another holiday. But Fernandes Anderson views it as an important first step to "go on record that this is an issue and it needs to be acknowledged." The mayor would have the power to declare it as an official city holiday, according to Fernandes Anderson.

Calling it a "tremendously significant day within Islam, and is one of two official holidays in the faith," Fernandes Anderson would like for the day to be recognized as a citywide municipal holiday starting next year. Ramadan is ongoing, with this year’s Eid al-Fitr next Monday. The holiday is usually observed with prayer gatherings and family celebrations and feasts.

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"This day is celebrated by Muslims worldwide because it constitutes the end of Ramadan, and the month long dawn to sunset fast that accompanies it," she said in her resolution.

About 80,000 Muslims in Greater Boston and 3.5 million Americans practice the faith, according to Fernandes Anderson’s filing this week.

"Not only is this the correct action from a standpoint of moral consistency and decency, but that it makes also sense from a practical point of view," she said in the resolution.

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Said Abdikarim, a former city council candidate who currently works as an entrepreneur and lives in the South End, thought the move to make Eid al-Fitr an official holiday in Boston was long overdue.

"It’s an excellent idea," he said.

He said typically the first thing observant Muslims do to mark the holiday is go to prayer in the morning. Not having it as a widely recognized holiday can complicate someone’s ability to fulfill their religious obligation, he said.

For Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, of Roxbury’s Masjid Alhamdulillah, city recognition of the holiday would signal progress.

"Our holidays aren’t really considered, you know," he said. "And it’s a growing population."

Currently, official holidays in the city include New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, Presidents Day, Patriots Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, Labor Day, Indigenous Peoples Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. City offices are closed on those days. For Bunker Hill Day, which is in June, city offices are open but Sunday parking rules are in effect.

Other cities have taken steps to recognize Muslim holidays. Just across the Charles River from Boston, Cambridge claims to be the first public school system in the US to officially recognize a Muslim holiday. In 2015, then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s public schools would close in honor of two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.

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That same year, the White House declined to name Eid al-Fitr a national holiday after more than 100,000 people supported such a move in an online petition, Time reported.

Other school districts, including Burlington, Vt., Dearborn, Mich., and Paterson and South Brunswick, N.J., recognize Muslim holidays, Al Jazeera has reported.

And earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that Muslim students pushed for Georgia’s largest school district to recognize the holiday Eid al-Fitr with a day off on next year’s school calendar.

In a Tuesday statement, a spokesman for Mayor Michelle Wu’s office called Eid al-Fitr "an important day for Muslim communities in Boston and around the world."

"The City is committed to ensuring that Boston is a place where all cultures, languages, and religions are celebrated and uplifted," he said. "We look forward to reviewing the resolution and proposal."

While other cities may have given school children the day off, Fernandes Anderson said she was unaware of any other major American city to declare Eid al-Fitr an official holiday.

Fernandes Anderson, whose council district is anchored in Roxbury and includes parts of the South End and Fenway, has said she draws on her faith to avoid acting in a reactionary way. On Tuesday, she said she is currently observing the dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fasting and that she plans to go to a prayer service early in the morning on Monday.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.