To celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, lawmakers are hosting a virtual iftar next month to ensure American Muslims can fellowship with leaders in the community safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Announced today via a press release, the congressional celebration will take place on May 12, co-chaired by Reps. André Carson, Ilhan Omar, Rashid Tlaib and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Imam Khalid Latif, Imam W. Deen Shareef, and artist Aisha Fukushima are among those scheduled to give remarks.
“Though the pandemic has forced us to rethink how we celebrate Ramadan, I hope we can start a new tradition with this virtual National Iftar,” Congresswoman Tlaib (D-MI) said in a statement. “This event is an opportunity for all Americans to join us as my fellow Muslim colleagues in Congress and I observe Ramadan.”
Iftars—nightly gatherings marking the end of the day’s fast—are a crucial and beloved part of Ramadan. Indiana Congressman André Carson raised the possibility of virtual iftars in an interview with The Root earlier this month.
Carson, who has met with local imams to discuss how they’re cooperating with the state’s shelter-in-place orders, expressed regret that the iftars couldn’t be held this year as they have in the past.
“I will certainly miss the camaraderie, the spiritual rejuvenation many of us get from this observation is something that you really can’t describe,” he said. “You have to experience it.”
The virtual iftar will emphasize that spirit of joy and shared identity by uplifting stories of American Muslims who are working diligently to help their communities during the coronavirus pandemic. Muslim lawmakers will also speak on a panel about how the government is supporting Muslim communities, and top scholars and religious leaders will offer reflections on the spiritual and social importance of Ramadan.
“Now, more than ever, it is important we practice that no one is outside our circle of compassion. By coming together for The National Iftar, we are creating friendships and memories that will last a lifetime,” said Attorney General Ellison.
The pandemic has been particularly challenging for faith communities, for whom in-person worship and fellowship are cherished and established parts of daily life. Over the last month, as shelter-in-place mandates took hold in much of the country, some Christian congregations and Orthodox Jewish communities have flouted the safety guidelines put forward by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among them was Florida Pastor Tony Spell, who has repeatedly held services drawing hundreds of congregants since the pandemic started.
The Congressional Iftar will balance the need for community solidarity and celebration with the responsibility to keep the public safe and mitigate the spread of the virus.
As Zaheer Ali, Founding Director of Muslims in Brooklyn, told The Root, “during this time, as far as I’m concerned, the entire Earth is a masjid or a place of prayer...for me, avoiding gatherings is not just respecting and protecting people’s lives, but it is also an act of obedience to God.”
Those interested in participating can register for the event here.