Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 225- Iftar

“This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”
-President Barack Obama 08/13/2010

Dear Mr. President,

Tonight at the White House's Iftar dinner you gave emphatic support for the construction of the Islamic community center near ground zero. All week, I've felt like my letters to you have been angry, antagonistic. Today I wanted to find something positive to write about, and I'm really pleased that I didn't have to look too far to find it. Your remarks are sure to upset some Americans, sure to be controversial, but it was the right thing to do. I hope that you continue to put your values ahead of being politically cautious. As frustrated as I often am with you and with your administration, nights like tonight remind me why I am so proud to call you my President, and why I am so proud to be an American. I want to feel this way about my country more often. I want to believe in your administration and the work you're doing.

I'm also glad that you hosted an Iftar dinner, once again. I had my own Iftar dinner on the 49 bus after work tonight, counting down the moments till the sun sets so that I could drink water and eat a few dates. I've forgotten the simple pleasure of breaking the fast at night, the calm feeling it gives me, and the way my doubts about surviving this month just wash away. The night was cool and beautiful, and all of the stress of my day seemed irrelevant. On my way home I stopped at a cupcake shop, and the girl behind the counter gave me a free Iftar cupcake. I'm still overwhelmed by the support I get from my friends and family and even complete strangers. Seeing the White House hold its own Iftar, and hearing your words in support of religious freedom, I hope, will be a step toward healing the pain and alienation many Muslims in this country suffer every day.

I'm really happy to be writing about something other than complaints tonight. Thank you, Mr. President, and Ramadan Kareem.

Respectfully yours,



  1. I am in complete agreement with the President's public statements (including the backtracking). The US government should neither encourage nor discourage any religious activities. As a religious person myself, I would find it deeply disturbing if the government started telling us where we could and could not build churches/temples/mosques/etc.

    The social pressure regarding the construction of the mosque is an entirely different matter...I personally think it's a profoundly bad idea because the Muslim community is alienating themselves by pushing this forward, and also because vandalism will be a serious problem (during and after construction). I don't really find the idea of putting it there offensive, though (unless it's being built by a group with some radical theology--I don't know the details so I can't comment).

  2. So unpopular communities should never risk offending the general population for fear of alienation? This NYT article discusses the two other mosques "steps away" from ground zero (as Sarah Palin would describe it) and how they often turn away visitors because their facilities are too small. This is a non-issue, conservatives are using it to fire up their base in an election year. No one complains about the strip clubs near ground zero! This is about a bigoted inability to divorce ourselves from the easy-to-digest narrative that the terrorists on 9/11 acted because of Islam. The group does not have radical theology, in fact the Imam is seen as being incredibly progressive. (Though he one time "dodged" a question about Hamas being a terrorist organization, you know I would have been a lot less delicate about it. His answer was certainly less pointed than half of my blog posts defending Hamas.)

    No one suggested we stop building churches around Oklahoma City. There is absolutely no justification for opposition to this other than a vague, unsubstantiated fear that Republicans are all too happy to twist into outrage and use to their advantage.

  3. Like I pressure is another issue. As long as the government isn't involved in the decision, I don't care one way or the other. Sarah Palin and her posse are entitled to bitch and moan about it just as much as this group is entitled to build a mosque. I wouldn't have it any other way. People are going to do what they're going to do...I'm not going to get all worked up about it.

    If it's a progressive group, it might be worth it for them to try to push to have a presence so they can show by example that Muslims are not terrorists. But...that's their decision.