A gathering of lawmakers and interfaith leaders on Capitol Hill this week encouraged American Muslims to engage more widely in their communities through networking and political participation in order to empower themselves.
The annual Ramadan Iftar Dinner at the Capital Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. was organized by the Muslim American Citizens Coalition and Public Affairs council (MACCPAC).
The event reinforced the message that American Muslims must step up their outreach and engagement at community and political levels.
American Muslim Institution (AMI) was one of the co-sponsors of this event along with a number of the Washington D. C. Islamic organizations, including ADAMS Center, Dar Al Noor Islamic Center, Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, McLean Islamic Center and International Institute of Islamic Thoughts.
Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who was the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate in 2016, was the keynote speaker at the event, attended by about 100 Muslims and non-Muslims.
A team of ten Muslim Boy Scouts from the ADAMS Center performed the U.S. Flag Honor Guard and Pledge of Allegiance Ceremony to the delight and applause of the multicultural audience, reflecting America’s strength in diversity.
In his speech, Senator Kaine acknowledged and appreciated the contributions American Muslims are making in a host of areas, including medicine, sciences, IT industry, services and many other professional areas.
He recounted that the proudest moment of his public life was when he went to the Dulles International Airport earlier this year to join the protest in response to President Trump’s first Executive Order against travelers and refugees from the seven Muslim majority countries.
These spontaneous protests across the United States by Americans of all religions, races, ethnicity and color represented inherent goodness of the American people.
He also added that what has happened in the federal and appeals courts since the two Executive Orders were issued by President Trump earlier this year shows remarkable independence of the U.S. judicial system.
In her remarks, Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas focused on the need for Muslims throughout the United States to be actively engaged in the public square because it is not only the American Muslims but Black Americans, Hispanic Americans and other minorities, who are being affected by the rhetoric and policies of the current Administration.
The Jewish American representatives, I spoke to at the event emphasized the need for all of us to be proactive in our civic engagement with local communities, elected officials and other civil rights groups.
Overall, the event showed the cooperation among various American Muslim organizations and their outreach efforts with their elected leaders.
In the face of the ongoing challenges that started with the 2016 election campaign, America’ diverse communities should not only raise voices for themselves but for all.
We cannot afford to be silent when other groups are being unfairly targeted. For example, it was heartening to see Jewish, Christian, and other Americans with signs “I am a Muslim” at demonstrations across the country in response to the anti-Muslim travel ban issued through executive orders earlier this year.