Tolerance and acceptance are the foundations upon which our great nation was built, and a mindset exercised by our earliest American presidents.
In 1805, President Thomas Jefferson hosted Muslim diplomat Sidi Soliman Mellimelli at the White House for negotiations regarding the First Barbary War with four North African states. President Jefferson strived to ensure that the meeting would be a positive one. Knowing that Sidi would arrive during the month of Ramadan, a period of fasting for Muslims from sunrise to sunset each day, the president ordered that the State Dinner be rescheduled to take place precisely at sunset. Thus, the State Dinner became known as an Iftar Dinner, or one of breaking the fast.
President Jefferson’s gesture of respect toward the Islamic faith sparked a tradition that would be re-adopted by President Clinton in 1996, when he established the first official “White House Iftar Dinner,” a meal celebrating the United States’ relationship with Muslims around the world and in the United States. The tradition was then continued by President Bush, President Obama, and President Trump.
As youth in a tumultuous America, we feel that it is vital for Americans of all walks of life to come together. So, we would like to continue this long-standing tradition and re-create this special event as an interfaith movement that promotes unity and tolerance, and celebrates our country’s rich diversity through the American Iftar Dinner.
Imagine a dinner table, with each seat hosting a representative of a different religion or ethnic group – a meal for harmony and humanity with peaceful discussion and discourse among diverse people.
With the same commitment to tolerance and acceptance that Americans across this country have always embraced, we plan to hold the American Iftar Dinner on June 7, 2018, during the month of Ramadan. Our national headquarters will be based in Des Moines, Iowa, the heartland of America; while the national event is held in Des Moines, numerous dinners will be hosted across the United States by universities, organizations, institutions, and everyday individuals, all sharing the common goal of achieving unity.
The dinner will be one that celebrates not only Islam, but all the world’s religions through a non-partisan meal shared by people of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds, as a symbol of our commitment to diversity and tolerance, and as a celebration of the humanitarianism that people across America have exhibited throughout history.
Despite our differences, we believe that we all share the same hopes and aspirations for our future generations to live in an accepting and peaceful world. As a call to action, urge people across the United States to host their own dinner, invite ethnically and culturally diverse guests and, in their own way, promote a unified existence.
If not a dinner, then make an effort to reach out and meet someone from a different religion or culture. Then, share your moment of unity through stories and photos using the hashtag #mealforhumanity.
Collectively, we can embark on a powerful movement of national and global tolerance. It’s the American way, and President Jefferson would be proud to know that his legacy lives on.