On August 10, 2011 President Obama hosted his third Ramadan Iftar dinner at the White House. Ramadan is the Muslim holy month in which the adherents fast from dawn to dusk. Iftar is the meal with which the Muslims break their fast at sunset amidst their families and communities. The President was simply following the tradition that has been maintained for quite a few years. Among his predecessors who hosted such dinners were, presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. It is noteworthy that the first ever White House Iftar dinner was hosted by one of the founding fathers, President Thomas Jefferson in 1805. He had invited Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, the envoy from Tunisia. Mellimelli was visiting the United States because of a tense dispute over piracy on American vessels by the Barbary states. He arrived during the month of Ramadan. At the time when Jefferson invited Mellimelli to the president’s house, he had the meal time changed to 3:30 p.m. which was the sunset time and time to break his fast. This gesture shows Jefferson’s respect towards the religious obligations of a person of another faith.
This year’s White House Iftar dinner was attended by prominent members from the political arena as well as the local religious communities. Among those from the political arena included two Muslim members of the Congress, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson. The guest list also included several members of the diplomatic corp. There were not only ambassadors from prominent Muslim countries but also from Israel and Russia.
The dinner was a first for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the oldest Muslim organization in the USA. Vice President Naseem Mahdi was the honored representative of the Community to attend the Iftar and speak to the President.
“Our Community was honored to be invited to this year’s Iftar dinner at the White House,” said Mr. Mahdi. “We support the President’s call to honor the memories of our fellow Americans who perished on 9/11.”
With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 a month away, President Obama took the opportunity to recognize and honor the victims of this tragic event.
“In one month, we will mark the 10th anniversary of those awful attacks that brought so much pain to our hearts. It will be a time to honor all those that we’ve lost, the families who carry on their legacy, the heroes who rushed to help that day and all who have served to keep us safe during a difficult decade,” the President said.
The President reminded all that among those who lost their lives included Americans of diverse faiths and backgrounds including Muslims.
“And tonight, it’s worth remembering that these Americans were of many faiths and backgrounds, including proud and patriotic Muslim Americans,” the President remarked.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has taken a proactive step to remove the misconception about Muslims that they are unable to reconcile their faith with loyalty to the state. They have launched two campaigns under the titles of “Muslims for Peace” and “Muslims for Loyalty”. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11 the Community launched their third initiative, “Muslims for Life”, a blood drive whose goal is to collect 10,000 bags of blood.
What better way is there to heed to the President’s call “to honor these patriots — those who died and those who served?”