City of Dearborn asked to close on Muslim holidays

Posted: Friday, April 16, 2004

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) Good Friday and Christmas are city holidays. Now, with a large Muslim population living in Dearborn, local leaders of the faith are asking: Why not shut down for our holidays as well?

The western Detroit suburb of 88,000 has been a magnet for immigrants from the Mideast for decades and has one of the nation's largest concentration of Arabs.

Nearly 40 percent of Dearborn public school students are Muslim. The city also serves as a cultural and religious center for the estimated 300,000 members of the Arab-American community in southeastern Michigan.

The two major Muslims holidays in question are Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the monthlong Ramadan fast, and Eid al-Adha, which marks the annual completion of the pilgrimage to Mecca. The dates of the holidays change each year because they are determined by a lunar calendar.

''You do have a large Arab-American population in the city of Dearborn, and it is time for people of the Muslim faith to feel equally important,'' said Ahmed Chebbani, chairman of the American-Arab Chamber of Commerce.

The American Muslim Society on April 6 asked the City Council to make both days city holidays. The council referred the request to the city's legal department. Each of the Muslim holidays last for several days.

One city councilman expressed doubt.

''The city of Dearborn will follow the state and federal holiday calendar, and until that changes, that's where I stand,'' Thomas Tafelski said.

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