Raising Policy Concerns During White House Iftar

July 14, 2014

In 1996, the Muslim Public Affairs Council collaborated with diverse organizations to work with then First Lady Hillary Clinton to host the first White House Eid celebration in recognition of the heritage and contributions of American Muslims to the mosaic that makes up America.
At that time, we had significant policy differences with the Clinton Administration, including the ongoing sanctions on Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the use of secret evidence in legal proceedings. We supported the first White House Eid celebration because we believed that American Muslims must be recognized by our government and policy makers as a significant and contributing component of our society, and that positive recognition from our public institutions could positively influence public opinion of American Muslims.
Each year, there have been calls by some community members to boycott the White House Iftar. In recent days, we have seen the same call issued in light of ongoing policy differences, including revelations of NSA and FBI surveillance of American Muslim leaders, the administration's failure to call for an end to the assault on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and a host of other issues.
MPAC respects the right of all Americans to exercise their civic and political conscience in the way they see fit. In fact, much of our work in national security and civil rights focuses on creating safe spaces for individuals to articulate their conscience and activism no matter which view they may hold.
If mainstream American Muslims are not at the table, they will be replaced by voices who seek to further marginalize our community and promote problematic policies. This year, we plan to discuss the NSA and FBI surveillance of American Muslims and the administration's failure to call on Israel to halt its appalling assault on Palestinians.
History teaches us that every community and movement for change has deployed multiple approaches to bringing about progress in both public opinion and policies. We respect the right of those who choose not to attend Iftars hosted by elected officials. At the same time, we believe that the White House Iftar and other agency Iftars are part of a great national tradition of celebrating diverse faith communities in America. At such events, MPAC raises substantive policy issues with senior administration officials. This year MPAC plans on giving the White House a letter from KinderUSA Chairwoman, Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, addressing the plight of the people of Gaza.
We believe that the Iftars cannot be a replacement for engagement or the only form of engagement between the President and the American Muslim community. The Iftars must be followed up with meetings between the White House and the American Muslim community focusing on specific policy issues.
We urge all American Muslims to express their civic and political conscience in the way they see fit and to respect the various approaches to bringing about needed change in many of the challenges facing our diverse communities. During this blessed month of Ramadan, we should reflect the message of the Quran by finding the common ground which brings us together to improve our communities even while we hold divergent points of view.



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