MPAC Attends Iftars

Hosted by State Dept., USDA, U.S. Military & British Embassy

September 17, 2009


This month, MPAC-DC has participated in about a dozen iftar dinner events sponsored by various government agencies. In the past week, we've attended iftars hosted by the State Department, the British Embassy, the Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. military.

State Department

Farah Pandith, head of the newly established Office of the U.S. Representative to the Muslim Communities, opened the State Department's annual iftar on Monday evening by celebrating America's religious diversity and the contributions of Muslims to American culture. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reminded the audience that she was the first U.S. official to host an iftar as First Lady in 1996, since Thomas Jefferson hosted the Tunisian ambassador 200 years ago. (The First Lady's iftar more than a decade ago was organized in coordination with MPAC & the Muslim Women's League.)

Over 230 people attended the State Department iftar, including MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati, Dr. Sherman Jackson (Univ. of Michigan), Imam Mohamed Magid (Vice President of ISNA), Maha Elgenaidi & Soumaya Khalifa (Islamic Networks Groups), and the music group Native Deen. MPAC member Nasreen Haroon, an artist whose paintings have been displayed in U.S. Embassies around the world, also attended.

SEE: Video & Transcript of Secretary Clinton's Remarks (State Dept)

British Embassy

The British Ambassador to the United Sates, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, hosted the first ever Iftar at the Ambassador's Residence on Sept. 10. The Ambassador invited a diverse group of Muslim Americans, British Muslims and government officials who have all worked on strengthening the relationships between Muslim communities and their representatives in both countries.

MPAC joined the Ambassador and the first Muslim Minister of Transport in the United Kingdom, MP Sadiq Khan, in celebrating the diversity which exists in both Muslim communities and discussed some of the challenges and opportunities of integration both within the Muslim American and British communities.

USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted its first Iftar on Sept. 10. Politicians, staffers, diplomats, and families of those attending gathered in the ritual of breaking fast at sunset.

"The setting was pleasant, the company was delightful, and the food was delicious," says MPAC's own Fatma Hocaoglu, who attended the event. "More importantly, we all felt a common thread tying Muslims and non-Muslims together."

Rather one of the more memorable speeches was that by the Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas J. Vilsack, who highlighted his own mixed heritage, and its influence on his upbringing and outlook on life. The message that was being conveyed by Secretary Vilsack was that diversity in society should be used as a tool to unify, with the Iftar dinner being a perfect example.

Military Iftars

MPAC also recently had the opportunity to attend iftars hosted by two important military institutions. The first was held by the Pentagon, and was attended by a variety of U.S. military, government, civil society and foreign defense attache personnel. The event was capped by two keynote speeches from Dalia Mogahed (Gallup Center for Muslim Studies) and James Zogby (Arab American Institute). The National Security Agency held its own intimate Iftar gathering a week later. Many members of the military and their families were in attendance. The event was concluded with a short speech by a Muslim military chaplain.

-- Alejandro Beutel (alejandro@mpac.org) & Fatma Hocaoglu (fatma@mpac.org)

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