Chicago Sun-Times
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Obama hosts Iftar dinner at White House marking start of Ramadan. U.S., foreign press pool reports



Everyone should have the news already. Potus inserted himself firmly into the controversy over the so-called Ground Zero Burlington Coat Factory mosque with, "This is America, and our commitment to the religious freedom must be unshakeable."

The scene: The sun officially down, a crowd of men in suits and women in dresses, a few head scarves, saris, one Saudi head piece -- nothing terribly exotic -- milled in the White House foyer drinking ayran, Turkish yogurt drink, and pitless dates. Your non-Muslim pooler is told by his better-informed colleagues that dates are the traditional nosh for the fasting ahead of the formal Iftar feast. About 90 guests were invited, including ambassadors, Muslim community leaders, dignitaries and Rep. Andre Carson on Indiana, one of two Muslims in Congress.

Pool was ushered into the State Dining Room at 8:30. Guests were seated around round tables with gray, silken tablecloths and four tall, white candles arrayed around a simple centerpiece. The lectern was set up in front of the brooding portrait of Lincoln.

Potus entered seven minutes later wearing a navy suit, navy tie, and white shirt, with some audible "how are you's".

The speech, read from paper, not a teleprompter, hewed closely to the text with one flourish. He spoke of an American "way of life" from the text, then added, "that quintessential American creed," picking up "...that stands in stark contrast to the nihilism..." The crowd was attentive and respectful. Only twice did they interrupt with applause, after he declared "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country" and after his story of Jefferson hosting the first Iftar for the ambassador from Tunisia.

When he finished, several guests surged forward to shake his hand while your pool was hastily ushered to the door.

Jonathan Weisman
Wall Street Journal



Foreign Pool report on POTUS Iftar dinner

Pool entered at 8:16 pm to the grand Foyer leading into the state dining room. Guests were standing talking and breaking their fast on dried dates and drinking fruit Juices,and a yogurt like drink called Ayran, common in Turkey.

Pool was held up in the red room for about 10 minutes before ushered in to the State dinning room at 8:30.Drinks and dates were offered to fasting reporters .Guests sat on decorated tables with candles, and flowers chatting for about 8 minutes before POTUS entered the room and greeted the guests. Remarks by the president has already been sent out but here are some of the highlights:

The President made news by supporting the rights of muslims to practice their religion freely including building a mosque and a community centre in NY while recognising the emotional sensitivities, he said, " let me be clear: as a citizen, and as a President, I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as anyone else in the country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan", he talked about freedom of religion and how the founding fathers understood it well and gave equal rights to all. He also talked about 9 -11 and how the perpetrators do not represent Islam, he said, "Al Qaeda's cause is not Islam-it is a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders-these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children".

POTUS also talked about the history of Iftar in america, he said that the first iftar was held 200 years ago during the time of president Jefferson to the first muslim ambassador,a Tunisian ,he also talked about the oldest mosques built in seder rapid, Iowa. Pooler noticed few guests impressed with the info and heard one said, " oh,I didn't know that"

Among the attendees are muslim congressman, Andre Carson, almost all Arab and muslim ambassadors, POTUS envoy to OIS, Rashad Hussain , Muslim world envoy Farah Pandith, also Huma Abddine, assistant to Secretary Clinton who just got married to congressman Anthony Weiner, ( full list already sent) This is the second event that POTUS holds to celebrate with Muslims. Its a tradition started during the Clinton years and was followed during the Bush administration . President Bush hosted 8 iftars for each year he was in office. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is obligatory to all adult muslims with exception of the sick, the travelling and pregnant and nursing women and few others . Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims abstain from eating , drinking and smoking from dawn to sunset( sucks if they live in a nordic country)!

.Ramadan is the holiest month in the islamic calendar. Its the month that prophet Mohamed received the first sura of the Quran by the angel Gabriel while meditating in Hira cave in the year 610 CE. The name of the Sura was Alalaq, and the first word was the order form in Arabic grammar of the verb "read". God commanded the prophet to read in his name.

The wisdom of fasting is numerous according to Islamic teaching, primary of all is to share the feeling of the poor and the hungry and to sympathies with them , therefore encourage the rich to give to charity, known in Arabic as Zakat; another pillar of islam . Also to practice jihad against oneself which means the ability to resist temptation and daily pleasures and finally to give the stomach a break a month a year from indulging and over eating.
The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid Al Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast, not to be confused by Eid al Adha, the feast of sacrifice which takes place during the pilgrimage to Mecca, around two months after the end of Ramadan. Happy weekend everyone.

Ramadan Karim.

Nadia Bilbassy-Charters
Chief US Correspondent,
MBC TV, ( Middle East Broadcasting Centre)


I really appreciate the way President Obama has expressed his cultural diversity towards Islam and Muslims. God bless you President Obama.

I really appreciate the way President Obama has expressed his cultural diversity towards Islam and Muslims. It was also interesting to see how he had defended Islam.

Your explanation about Islam is accurate.

Good Luck

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on August 14, 2010 9:23 AM.

Obama: Muslims have "right" to build mosque near 9-11 site in New York. Transcript was the previous entry in this blog.

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