July 24, 2013
To White House Iftar or To Not…

Like years past, the President of the United States is holding a White House Iftar for Muslim-Americans this Ramadan.

For those who don’t know, Ramadan is the month Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for 29-30 days, depending on the lunar cycle. Iftar is when at dusk, Muslims break their fast.

Now the White House Iftar wouldn’t be a problem if the president wasn’t Barack Hussein Obama - a leader many in the Muslim-American community loathe. Predictably, this has caused discomfort and criticism from many Muslim-Americans and calls for a boycott of the event have been issues by many activists and community leaders as they have been in the past. Some have gone further and criticized those Muslim-Americans who will be attending the event.

I was asked about what I thought about this, so I’m going to state my personal opinion. This is just me, guys. Not representing the entire “Muslim race”. Also, kindly read the whole thing before you criticize me.

The Iftar:

I’ll let you know what I think about Obama by quoting brother Cornel West from his recent interview with Democracy Now:

"…President Obama has very little moral authority at this point. [He is] a global George Zimmerman, because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense."

And,

"And you know what the irony is, Sister Amy? Brother Martin [Luther King Jr.] would not be invited to the very march in his name, because he would talk about drones. He’d talk about Wall Street criminality. He would talk about working class being pushed to the margins as profits went up for corporate executives in their compensation. He would talk about the legacies of white supremacy. Do you think anybody at that march will talk about drones and the drone president?"

As for the Iftar itself, I think it’ll be a fabulous opportunity for Obama to score points with the “diversity-loving” crowd. The thing, though, is that he didn’t come up the Iftar idea. The annual tradition was instituted years before he took office. It’s become sort of a tradition. Obama will be just benefitting from its side effects.


The Invitees:

I don’t know for sure, but I think some of my friends are going.

I’m not gonna name and shame or denounce them, though, and I support their decision to go even though I personally wouldn’t have if I was a big shot who got invites from the White House.

As the reader knows better than me, there are two ways of changing systems of governance; from the inside and from the outside. I tried the inside route, didn’t like it and decided I and my efforts were being utilized on the outside much better.

Obviously, other people think their efforts are best spent on the inside and while Obama has been an a-grade (curse word redacted because of Ramadan), let’s not forget, he’s only the head of an administration. He’s not the state itself. And many would argue that White House Iftars have become a tradition that do Muslims - religious or cultural - good by giving us recognition.

The friends I have in the administration are good people. I know their struggle for improving our society and respect it. A friend that I’m particularly proud of is involved in helping educate children in developing countries - many of those Muslims. Now should I go and scream at him for “validating” Obama’s killing of children in Yemen even though I know he has to leave his children behind sometimes for weeks in order to help other children?

I think that would be unfair of me.

Does that mean some people going to the Iftar won’t be there purely for advancing their careers and to become rich and powerful?

Sure.

But I can’t judge people I don’t know much about. The ones I do know, will be there with a heavy heart, but carrying on the tradition so they can carry on their work without anyone accusing them of being Muslim Brotherhood.

Speaking of Muslim Brotherhood, Aziz Poonawalla sent me his response to the criticism. While Poonawalla, the former editor of MuslimsForObama.com, says many things that I might not agree with, one of the things he says is pretty true:

Events like these Iftars are the reason why Obama spoke out against Terry Jones’ plan to burn the Qur’an, supported the Park 51 project, and defended the role of Muslim Americans during the State of the Union even as the Republicans were holding “witch-hunt” hearings about us on Capitol Hill. When it comes to the Muslim American community, President Obama has consistently emphasized our importance, rejected offensive terminology and Islamophobia, and made it clear that Islam rejects violent extremism.

A lot of Muslims I know appreciate this. Family, friends, acquaintances… Maybe they shouldn’t, but they do. And they are part of the American family as well. This makes them feel included.

I believe that’s the reason Rep. Keith Ellison, a Muslim congressman much respected by the community, hasn’t bucked such Iftars and was at one hosted by the Pentagon on the 15th. His efforts and efforts of many like him are responsible for the change in how administrations deal with Muslim-Americans and how the role of Muslims is emphasized.

Maybe it would have happened if they worked from the outside, too. It has happened, though, and I’m grateful it has and so are many many others. And we have the efforts of people like Rep. Ellison to thank for that.

And you are still free to disagree with all of it.

The Critics

All of this has caused much anger. If anyone thinks that the Iftar should be boycotted, they have the right to. However, attacking those attending is something I disagree with vehemently. Though, there’s something else I disagree with just as much or maybe even more.

There’s this opinion out there by some that somehow the critics of the White House Iftar are basically Twitter trolls.

I think that’s one of the most deeply offensive things that can be said about Muslim-Americans who are opposed to the Iftar, many of them human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, religious leaders and community leaders.

I have had the honor and privilege of knowing some of these men and women and they are intimately involved in all the issues that they talk about. Be it opposition to drone strikes, helping Muslims who are racially profiled and then locked up by police departments, representing them in courts that rely on “classified evidence” and anonymous witnesses, helping raise money for charity, raising a voice against government injustices… you name it, they’re in it and they’re doing a great job.

Maybe some of them are not on the inside, but they’re heroes nonetheless. To see their struggles get questioned because they disagree with those attending the White House Iftar is unacceptable.

In summation, let’s work together, but if we can’t work together, then let’s respect each other and reserve the right to disagree and criticize. Vitriol, rooted in anger, should not have a place amongst us - especially not during Ramadan.

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