How Dearborn, Michigan became the first town in the US to make Eid a holiday

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WLast year Abdullah Hammoud was elected mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, becoming the city’s first Muslim and Arab American leader. This week, it’s making history again – this time, by making Dearborn the first US city to offer Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam’s major holidays. marking the end of Ramadan, as a paid holiday for city workers.

Hammoud, whose family is from Lebanon, tells TIME that he didn’t ask Dearborn to be the first. In fact, he says it wasn’t until after the news was announced that he realized the city was even setting a precedent. (Representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a US-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, confirmed that Dearborn was the first US city to do so.) Instead, the reasons the high – bailiff nominating for time off for city workers on Eid. al-Fitr – which translates to “festival of the breaking of the fast” in Arabic – is more practical.

Dearborn is known as the Arab capital of North America for its high concentration of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi and Yemeni communities, and the city claims the largest Muslim American population per capita. , as well as the largest mosque in the country. For this reason, many of Hammoud’s constituents, as well as many of the town’s workers, are Muslim. When the city began labor talks with its workers last year, Hammoud says it didn’t make sense to offer workers Eid al-Fitr in addition to the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, which takes place in the summer, as two additional paid holidays. to go along with the likes of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Good Friday.

“I’m going with my family, workers tend to go with their families,” Hammoud said of the three-day Eid al-Fitr, which is expected to begin on Friday, April 21. “I think it’s time for us to model, in the city of Dearborn where we’re trying to hire an inclusive and diverse workforce, that we should to recognize their holidays and religious traditions as well.”

Suzanne Jaber of The Eid Shop looks at some of her company's Ramadan decorations she created, in Dearborn Heights, Mich., on March 27, 2023. (Carlos Osorio - AP)

Suzanne Jaber of The Eid Shop looks at some of her company’s Ramadan decorations she created, in Dearborn Heights, Mich., on March 27, 2023.

Carlos Osorio – AP

Although Eid has long been informally recognized by the US government, it is not designated as an official public holiday. As a result, American Muslims who want to observe the holiday usually have to request time off from their employer or academic institution. While several school districts with large Muslim populations now offer Eid as a holiday, including Dearborn and New York City, they are still very much in the minority. For Muslim community advocates, extending the right to holiday to municipal workers is an important next step. “No other city in the US could achieve this,” says Nour Ali, director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Michigan. As a Dearborn native, Ali says this kind of representation has been “a long time coming for us as a city. ” She hopes that what has started in Dearborn will not end there.

These efforts are only likely to increase as America’s Muslim population continues to grow. A 2018 study by the Pew Research Center estimates that 3.45 million Muslims live in the US, or about 1.1% of the population. By 2050, that figure is expected to more than double to 8 million.

Read More: Why are more non-Muslims fasting this Ramadan

As Hammoud sees it, being an inclusive city goes beyond just time off. “As a city, we’ve always held a lot of religious traditions,” the mayor says, noting the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony (which he says has been made it “bigger and better than ever” last year by introducing white pine 30 feet) and its holiday lighting contests recognizing residents who decorate their homes for Christmas, Easter, Passover, and Ramadan.

Dearborn is adding a new tradition to that mix this week. “For the first time in the city’s history, we are hosting a free Eid brunch for the community,” Hammoud says. In another first, the city put a weekend on “The night of Ramadan” food market this year, where tens of thousands of residents gathered over the month.

While Hammoud admits that governments cannot make public holidays possible for all religious ceremonies, he believes that it is within the power of local leaders to do what they can to plan and ensure communities that they will achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people. “What we’re doing is bringing equity into the equation,” Hammoud said. “And this is what it looks like. Everyone feels welcome and represented. And I think it only adds to the culture of the city.”

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