US Increases Official Recognition of Muslim Holidays Like Eid

How the White House, school districts, and businesses are accommodating this important Muslim holiday

As President Joe Biden made his way to deliver his speech at the recent Eid Al-Fitr celebration dinner at the White House, he waved to a group of young Muslim children. Asking their mom’s permission first, he asked the kids to join him on stage as he addressed the gathering and wished Muslims all over the world Eid Mubarek.

President Biden and his administration hosted the first in-person Eid event which had not taken place since former President Barack Obama was in office. It is a move that is part of a growing recognition of Muslim holidays by some school districts and employers. 

President Trump had broken with the tradition during his first year of office but following a backlash did hold Ramadan Iftars in subsequent years. Biden had an Eid celebration last year but due to the pandemic, it was held virtually. This year’s event was meant to restore the tradition. 

“Today, we celebrate the incredible stories of the indispensable contributions of Muslims all across this great nation,” President Biden said. “Muslim-Americans, a diverse and vibrant part of the United States, making invaluable cultural and economic contributions to communities all across the nation.”

Starting with the Clinton administration, the Eid celebration dinner was intended to recognize the contributions of millions of Muslim Americans across the nation. President Biden acknowledged the hard work of Muslims, especially those who contributed to pandemic relief work, including frontline workers and first responders as well as those who pioneered the technology responsible for the COVID vaccine. Pictured: Azhar Azeez

Azhar Azeez, the CEO of Muslim Aid USA, signed a letter to the president that was co-signed by many of those who attended the event. The letter stated: 

Dear President Biden,

Thank you for fulfilling your promise to restore the annual commemoration of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr at the White House. After a hiatus, this in-person celebration was historically meaningful to both those in attendance and the American Muslim communities from all across the country that they represent.”

The letter goes on to appreciate the fact that African American Muslim Imam Dr. Talib Shareef was chosen to offer the invocation, a recognition of the veteran’s leadership and local community work. It also addresses the administration’s accounting for the diversity of the Muslim community. 

“In your remarks, you recognized the diversity and vibrance of American Muslims and the multitude of ways in which we continue to contribute to our collective future. Thank you for acknowledging the important contributions that American Muslim frontline workers and scientists have made to responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those in attendance reflected the rich diversity of American Muslims across multiple sectors including elected officials and public servants, entrepreneurs and innovators, and community-based social sector leaders.

It was heartening to see so many Muslim appointees and members of the administration present at the celebration."

Through national recognition of the holiest of Islamic holidays, conversations surrounding making Eid a federal holiday have arisen again. Several school districts around the country have made Eid an official holiday in places like New York City, NY and Montgomery County, Md. The Eid Holiday Coalition is an organization that is fighting for just that. Its founder, Dr. Uzma Syed was also invited to the White House event. 

Pictured: Dr. Uzma Syed

“As an American Muslim, the Eid al  Fitr celebration at the White House had tremendous significance and impact for our communities,” said Dr. Syed. “Despite the years of marginalization, the inclusion and warm welcome from President Biden and First Lady Dr Biden instilled hope and joy in Muslim American hearts across our country. From our youngest ones to our elders, seeing the biggest and most powerful house in the United States, the White House graciously open its doors and welcome us to celebrate our traditions and faith means everything.”

Syed and her coalition help Muslim groups across the country to lobby school boards to allow Eid to be a recognized school holiday.

“As a founder and president of the Eid Holiday Coalition, I have seen just how much impact a simple act such as acceptance of Eid Holidays in schools can mean for our children and families," says Dr. Syed. "When the president of the US acknowledges your holiday and invites you to his home to celebrate, it reaffirms the belief held by so many Muslim Americans, that yes we do belong. It was an occasion that will be cherished and remembered by all and will enable our children to see themselves as vital members of the American diaspora.”

President Biden echoed Syed’s sentiments in his address and having Muslim children attend the Eid event signaled the administration’s respect for the Islamic faith and its commitment to making the Muslim community feel included. President Biden quoted from the Islamic holy book:

“The resilience of Muslim Americans enriching the fabric of this nation is testament to Quran’s teaching: We have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another,” he said.

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