American Congress held a historic Iftar on Capitol Hill on Monday, May 20.
Rabat – The United States Capitol held its first-ever Congressional Iftar on Monday, May 20. The celebration was organized by an unprecedented number of Muslim representatives — three — which includes Ilhan Omar (Democrat from Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Democrat from Mich.), and Andre Carson (Democrat from Ind.). The event was hosted in collaboration with a human rights nonprofit called Muslim Advocates.
“It’s important to take a moment to recognize how historic this iftar is,” Tlaib said. “This event lifts an entire community that has felt unseen for far too long. We have been unjustly targeted to ignite fear and promote an agenda of hate. Tonight, we recommit to being rooted in justice, inclusivity, and a sense of belonging.”
Approximately 100 people attended and the iftar remained a celebration, despite the political tensions surrounding the event.
The White House iftar and American Presidents
Breaking Ramadan fast at The White House is an annual tradition beginning in 1996 under the Clinton administration. American presidents continued to host iftars until 2017, when President Trump canceled the iftar. In 2018 and 2019, Trump did hold iftar, but the guest lists largely featured Muslim foreign dignitaries and diplomats. Trump failed to invite any members of the American Muslim community both times.
Instead of inviting Muslim Reps. Omar, Tlaib and Carson, to his Iftar at the White House, Trump has arguably been placing them under intense scrutiny, ultimately “pitting” minorities against each other, as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says.
Trump’s divisive campaign to destabilize Muslim representatives is not limited to the Islamic faith. Using footage of 9/11, Trump chastised Omar’s misused quotes on the the attack and later tweeted, claiming Omar has “tremendous hatred for Israel and the Jewish people,” Omar responded: “You praised people at a neo-Nazi rally […] This is another transparent attempt to sow division b/t minority communities and distract from your own criminal behavior by smearing a Muslim woman. No one should fall for it this time.”
Political climate bringing Muslim Congress together
The persisting lack of substantial religious, racial, and gender diversity of the American Congress is a much-debated topic. Omar and Tlaib were both running in the November elections for Congress, when Carson, who had already been in office since 2008 said, “I was saying I hope that these folks win, because I don’t want to be the only one.”
Even after her election, Representative and Somali refugee Omar recalls “worrying” that “they [would] do everything to make sure that I will not be able to wear my headscarf to represent my constituents.”
Months into office, Omar appears to have more confidence about her position, saying about the conservatives who opposed her in Congress, “They are mortified about the fact that they awakened these Muslim women to fight for their space in Congress.”
“It doesn’t matter what you do or what you say – if you’re a Muslim, it’s going to get exaggerated,” Carson said.
“Ramadan is a time for not only spiritual renewal, but a time to open doors to friends, neighbors and anyone who wants to commune and reflect,” said Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates.
“This evening, at a time of unprecedented levels of anti-Muslim bigotry and hate crimes, together we showed that we will not be intimidated or cowed by those who wish to demonize and marginalize American Muslims. We will express our faith, our dignity and our commitment to caring for each other and our nation,” Khera added.