Ramadan, the Muslim holiday of fasting, began on May 27, 2017, and ended with Eid al-Fitr, on June 24. The celebration that ends a month of fasting focused on the premise: One Nation Under God.
During this time, Muslims gather in large venues for communal prayers, listen to a Khutba, or sermon, and give away food as charity, called Zakat al-Fitr.
Eid al-Fitr Teachings in America
The Eid al-Fitr celebration was from June 24-27. Imams across the nation took this time to talk about strengthening American values as “One Nation Under God,” according to Huffington Post.
American Muslims have committed to one goal: E pluribus unum, to be one with all. When these dedicated citizens recite The Pledge of Allegiance, they are emotionally moved by the words:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
According to the Quran 49:13, Allah created the people from a couple and made nations and tribes so they would know each other. Thus, one nation under God.
Only in deeds is any one greater than another. A good deed is defined as an act that benefits someone else.
All citizens of America should proudly fly the flag. To some, it is a symbol of their hopes and dreams. To others, it represents the evolution of a nation, and even still, the American flag reminds all, the many lives lost defending the rights of the people.
It is under this premise Imams teach Muslim congregations to reach out and create a cohesive America, one community at a time. Building harmonious relationships with those around them in an effort of peace. This is Islam in its simplest form, according to Huffington Post contributor Mike Ghouse.
Muslims, different than Jihadists, do not seek to impose their values on society. Islam teaches the desire for true freedom – harmony inside and out.
History of Iftars at the White House
In 1805, President Thomas Jefferson sent formal invitations that read, “Dinner will be on the table precisely at sun-set.” This was in respect to Sidi Soliman Mellimelli and Ramadan. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for 30 days. The Iftar had to be served after the sun set, which is the breaking of a fast.
Jefferson’s invitation to dinner at sundown was more than a show of respect for the Muslim ambassador, it was a showing of his Constitutional beliefs.
In 1786, he wrote the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, Jefferson’s self-proclaimed greatest work. In his autobiography, he explains:
Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it should read ‘departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion’ the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.
February 1996, Hillary Clinton hosted 150 people for the White House Iftar. Her daughter Chelsea had studied Islamic history and taught her mother about Ramadan tradition, according to Muslim Voices. The first lady understood that Americans needed to be educated on the tenets of Islam to build resilience and strength as a country. Clinton told guests, “The values that lie at the heart of Ramadan – faith, family, community and responsibility to the less fortunate – resonate with all the peoples of this earth.”
President George W. Bush hosted an Iftar every year he was in office, including November 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He said,
America was fighting against terrorism, not Islam. We’re a nation of many faiths.
According to Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, under President Bush, Charlotte Beers, the November dinner was a true picture of the respect America has for all religions. In an interview with the Washington Post, 15 years later, she said the administration agreed they had to reach out to Muslims acknowledging they were as concerned as every other citizen. The dinner resounded around the world – America was founded on the premise of freedoms, including freedom of religion.
Former President Barack Obama had Jefferson’s copy of the Koran on display at the 2012 White House Iftar. He said,
And that’s a reminder, along with the generations of patriotic Muslims in America, that Islam – like so many faiths – is part of our national story.
Obama told attendees about President Jefferson and the first White House Iftar, in honor of the visiting Muslim ambassador.
Each year the White House dinner had a special meaning. The overarching event has evolved, however, the basis remained: Bold inclusion and respect. Donald Trump has chosen not to continue this tradition during his administration.
Muslim/White House Tradition Discarded
This formal White House celebration continued through the decades until 2017.
Instead of hosting a White House Iftar, President Trump released a statement on June 24:
Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity. Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbors and breaking bread with people from all walks of life. During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion, and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honor these values. Eid Mubarak.
Reportedly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated in May, the Ramadan White House tradition would not continue with the Trump administration. He did send his best wishes to Muslims celebrating Eid al-Fitr.
This day offers an opportunity to reflect on our shared commitment to building peaceful and prosperous communities. Eid Mubarak.
Eid Mubarak is a Muslim greeting used specifically for the festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. It means blessed celebration.
In 2015, Pew Research Center reported there were 3.3 million Muslims in America. Although the Trump administration chose to reject 200 years of tradition, it is hopeful that next year he will host a White House Iftar.
By Jeanette Smith
Huffington Post: Eid Al-Fitr Ramadan Sermons to focus on building a Secure Cohesive America Stars and Stripes: Trump just ended a long tradition of celebrating Ramadan at the White House Time and Date: Eid al-Fitr
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United" (http://johnbrownnotesandessays.blogspot.com/2017/03/notes-and-references-for-discussion-e.html). Affiliated with Georgetown University (http://explore.georgetown.edu/people/jhb7/) for over ten years, he still shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."