WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr at a White House reception Monday with calls for religious tolerance and praise for the contributions of Muslim-Americans.
“Muslims make our nation stronger every single day, even as they still face real challenges and threats in our society, including targeted violence and Islamophobia that exist — I mean, it’s just astounding,” he told a large gathering at which Arooj Aftab, a Pakistani singer and composer, was one of the speakers.
The other were: First Lady Jill Biden and Dr. Talib Shareef, Imam of Masjid Muhammad, known as ‘The Nation’s Mosque’ in Washington, DC.US Vice President Kamala Harris, who tested positive for coronavirus last week, was absent, though she had been scheduled to attend with first gentleman Doug Emhoff, who attended the event alone.
Arooj, who recently became the first Pakistani woman to win a Grammy, a major annual American entertainment award, read “The Promise” by Rumi, a 13th-century Sufi mystic and poet.
The Brooklyn, New York-based Arooj won the Grammy for singing Hafeez Hoshiarpuri’s Ghazal, “Mohabbat Karne Wale Kam Na Honge” in the Best Global Performance category at a glittering ceremony in Las Vagas on April 3.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Masood Khan also attended the reception along with Washington-based members of the diplomatic corps.
Guests at the White House ceremony included Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and New Jersey Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer — both of Pakistani origin — among others.
Ms Siddiqui is currently serving her second term as mayor, and third on the Cambridge City Council. Ms. Jaffer, an educator and activist, recently completed two terms as mayor of Montgomery Township, New Jersey. In January of 2019, she became the first South Asian woman to serve as a mayor of a municipality in New Jersey, and the first Muslim woman to serve as a mayor of a municipality in the United States.
Those in attendance also included members of the US Foreign Service, two Muslim members of Congress — Andre Carson and Rashida Tlaib — as well as prominent Muslim Americans, thought leaders, and activists.
In holding the reception on Monday, President Biden restored Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations at the White House after his predecessor — Donald Trump — scrapped them.
Biden said he’d promised as a presidential candidate to bring back marking Eid-ul-Fitr at the White House — but was forced to hold a virtual celebration last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Today, around the world, we’ve seen so many Muslims that have been targeted by violence. No one, no one should discriminate against or be oppressed, or be repressed, for their religious beliefs,” Biden said. “We have to acknowledge that an awful lot of work remains to be done, abroad and here at home,” he said.
“Muslim-Americans enriching the fabric of this nation is a testament to the Quran’s teaching: ‘We have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another,” Biden said in the East Room, quoting the holy book.
Biden, who is Catholic, said there were a lot of similarities between all the three major religions. He said, “For the first time in decades, three Abrahamic faiths all celebrate their holy days at the same time,” listing Ramazan, Passover and Easter.
Muslims celebrate the three-day Eid-ul-Fitr holiday at the conclusion of Ramazan, a holy month in which Muslims fast. “Through their fast, Muslims demonstrate empathy for the suffering of others, strengthening and renewing their resolve to give generously and to make the world a better place, better for all who suffer,” Biden said.
Imam Talib Shareef said of the White House gathering, “Being hosted here is an important statement for our nation and for the world. A statement that Islam is a welcome part of our nation together with all the other faith traditions,” Shareef said. “And that the highest office in this land is committed to our nation’s foundational values and laws protecting religious freedom.”
Also addressing the event was first lady Jill Biden, who drew applause by saying that the holiday embodies above all “a joy born from love. Love for our families and for our communities, and for this community.”