We’re halfway through Ramadan, the month-long period of fasting that is meant to teach Muslims patience, modesty and spirituality. Fasts begin at sunrise and are broken at sunset with the evening meal known as iftar. Iftar is a time of celebration, where Muslims socialize and eat with family, friends and community members (who are not necessarily Muslim), letting loose and chowing down after a tough day of fasting.
On Tuesday, President Obama continued the tradition of holding iftar at the White House. Clinton began this tradition during his presidency, and Bush continued to hold iftars all eight years he was in office.
With cabinet secretaries, members of the diplomatic corps and lawmakers, the President shared stories of Muslims, celebrating their contributions to American culture. “The contributions of Muslims to the United States are too long to catalog because Muslims are so interwoven into the fabric of our communities and our country.” This was just one complement Obama paid to American Muslims; US News weighs in on his speech.
Obama’s iftar was another hit in his effort to reach out to Muslims and repair US relations with the Middle East. In addition to visiting Cairo and Turkey earlier in the year, Obama recently released a video to Muslims before the start to Ramadan. As usual, he aptly pointed out our cross-cultural similarities, saying that Ramadan’s rituals are “a reminder of the principles Muslims and Christians have in common, including advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
In other news, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Nebraska are the only states that still ban religious clothing for teachers, the burqa debate continues in France, a Muslim teen fears for her life after converting to Christianity, and a Hamas leader calls teaching about the Holocaust a “war crime”. Yikes.
Enjoy the long weekend!