By Muslim Advocates Newswire

WASHINGTON, DC — On Tues., May 12, 2020, Muslim Advocates and Honorary Co-Chairs Reps. André Carson, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison hosted The National Iftar. 

This historic online event served as a nationwide celebration of Ramadan for American Muslims and their allies during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The event featured a political discussion from the co-hosts, stories from heroes working on the front lines of the pandemic, reflections from spiritual leaders and Ramadan greetings from American Muslim politicians, artists, business leaders and more.

Muslim Advocates Executive Director Farhana Khera expressed gratitude for the opportunity to host this historic iftar during this historic time:

“Tonight’s event is special. Muslim Advocates is proud to co-host the only iftar co-hosted by every American Muslim who’s ever served in Congress. Tonight, we celebrate the resilience of American Muslims and all Americans as our nation continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” Khera said.

Honorary Co-Chair Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) talked about what Ramadan means to her:

“I’m really excited to have this opportunity to celebrate Ramadan this month by showing my gratitude to my community and to my family. This month is especially important because we get to really take stock of every single blessing we have and care for those who are less fortunate.”

Honorary Co-Chair and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison discussed his mother, who recently died from COVID-19 complications, and shared how that experience brought his family together: 

“Right before Ramadan started, my mother passed away. And as you know, our faith tells us that our mother is the most dear to us. And my mother’s death was related to COVID.” 

Ellison continued, “So this Ramadan has helped me manage the loss of one of the most important people in my life, and my prayers are more earnest, my connection with family has been more dear. 

“And we’ve really learned that physical proximity is not required in order to build family relation. You can build relationships without necessarily being able to be physically close. 

“We couldn’t hug each other at the funeral. We could only have 50 people there. It was really tough, but that did not inhibit the love that was between us.”

Honorary Co-Chair Rep. André Carson (D-IN) talked about the government’s role in the pandemic and the need to address racial disparities:

“The government has a role in protecting citizens and offering guidance and precautionary measures. I think the government has a responsibility of making sure people are practicing social distancing.”

Carson added, “We don’t want to see what happened in New York where the racial disparities are very apparent; where you had whites being treated one way, Blacks and Latinos being treated a different way.”

Honorary Co-Chair Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) talked about what needs to be done to protect frontline workers at meatpacking plants, many of whom are immigrants:

“No one should be fearing for their life going to work, especially so many of my neighbors who, just a few months ago, were considered unskilled workers and are now considered essential workers,” Tlaib said. 

“It does not mean now that they open up their livelihood and give up the sense of security of feeling safe at the workplace. And so I think it’s really critically important, especially at the federal level, that not only is it about resources and expanding testing, it’s also really critically important that we set up some guidelines through OSHA. 

“Very set, very clear guidelines than an attorney general like Keith Ellison can enforce, that we can actually put teeth into, requiring that there is a set standard for many of these industries now that, to be honest, are going to be so focused on the Excel sheets, the budgets, the profit and not be focused on making sure that the lives of the workers are protected.”

Ramadan Greetings came from:

Elected officials: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN); Virginia (VA) State Senator Ghazala Hashmi and VA State Delegates Sam Rasoul and Ibraheem Samirah; Nashville Councilmember-at-Large Zulfat Suara; Montgomery Township New Jersey (NJ) Mayor Sadaf Jaffer; Prospect Park, NJ, Mayor Mohamed Khairullah; Portland, Maine, Councilmember – Pious Ali; Redmond, and WA – Councilmember Varisha Khan. 

Business leaders and professionals: Ethan Allen CEO Farooq Kathwari; Fashion Model and UNICEF Ambassador Halima Aden; Musician and Humanitarian Sami Yusuf; Filmmakers and Technologists Shamir and Nora Allibhai; and Multidisciplinary Artist Sobia Ahmad. 

Stories from the Front Lines of the Pandemic came in from University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic CEO Adel Sayed in Los Angeles, CA; City Councilman Basheer Jones, Cleveland, OH; Zareen’s Restaurant owner Zareen Khan in San Francisco, CA; and Stony Brook Medical Center Staff Chaplain Khurram Ahmed in Long Island, N.Y.

Spiritual Reflections from Islamic Studies Professor Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Islamic Center at New York University Executive Director and Chaplain Imam Khalid Latif, and Imam W. Deen Shareef, Convener of the Council of Imams in New Jersey, who also gave the call to prayer known as the adhan.

  A Panel Discussion was presented with Rep. André Carson (D-IN), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

The National Iftar was hosted by Muslim Advocates Executive Director Farhana Khera and also featured musical performances by activist, speaker and “raptivist” Aisha Fukushima.

In the coming weeks, Muslim Advocates will also be working with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to host a virtual showcase on Facebook and YouTube featuring American Muslim and allied performing artists. 

Check out the Muslim Advocates website for more information and to watch The National Iftar: www.MuslimAdvocates.org

(Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation, so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination. For more information, contact Eric Naing at eric@muslimadvocates.org.)

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