WASHINGTON — The United States Department of Defense recently observed its 15th annual Iftar dinner at the Pentagon in celebration of the Islamic holiday Ramadan.
According to a report from the U.S. Army, the event was attended by senior defense leaders, White House and Congressional staffers, imams, Muslim employees and other supporters of the Muslim religion.
“The month of Ramadan focuses on a lot of things,” Colonel Thomas Waynick, the Pentagon chaplain, told reporters. “Among them, focusing one’s heart away from worldly activities, the cleansing of one’s soul to free it from harmful impurities, and the practices of self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice and empathy, especially with the less fortunate, and thus encouraging generosity and charity. These things are common to many of the world’s religions.”
The keynote speaker was Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, who is the first Muslim member of Congress. He spoke about the need to be charitable as a nation, and also discussed his thoughts about Muslims in the military.
“I worry about [my son] and I want him to be around people who care about him,” Ellison told the crowd. “He’s Muslim, like his father is. I want him to be in a good environment. I feel like coming here [to the Pentagon Iftar] is very special.”
Steve Redman, the executive director of the U.S. Amy Headquarters Services, told reporters that he attended the event even though he is Catholic because he believes it is important to be tolerant of other religions.
“We need to respect [Muslims fasting during Ramadan] and understand why they do that,” Redman stated. “If we could all just be more accepting, I think we’d all be better off.”
Last year, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta addressed those gathered and praised the chaplains that had arranged the event.
“We’re grateful to be able to host this Iftar dinner at the Pentagon and share in one of the great traditions of the Muslim faith,” he said. “We’re also able to affirm one of the fundamental principles of our country – our ability to freely practice our chosen faith and to be able to worship our God wherever we are.”
Barack Obama is expected to host a separate dinner at the White House in the weeks ahead, as has been his tradition throughout his tenure. However, as previously reported, he is not the first to celebrate the occasion, as Bill Clinton is believed to have initiated the practice in 1993. The event was then continued by George W. Bush for all eight years in office.
“According to Muslim teachings, God first revealed His word in the Holy Qur’an to the prophet, Muhammad, during the month of Ramadan. That word has guided billions of believers across the centuries, and those believers built a culture of learning and literature and science,” Bush remarked at a 2001 Ramadan event, as documented in White House archives. “All the world continues to benefit from this faith and its achievements.”
However, Obama stated during last year’s dinner that he believes the observance harks as far back as President Thomas Jefferson.
“As I’ve noted before, Thomas Jefferson once held a sunset dinner here with an envoy from Tunisia — perhaps the first Iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago. And some of you, as you arrived tonight, may have seen our special display, courtesy of our friends at the Library of Congress — the Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson,” he stated. “And that’s a reminder, along with the generations of patriotic Muslims in America, that Islam — like so many faiths — is part of our national story.”
But, some opine that Obama is severely mistaken about the matter as Jefferson was rather studying the religion because of his concerns about the nation’s foreign enemies.
“Obama is trying to rewrite American history to make us believe that Islam has always been a positive force for good in our society. The truth is that our nation’s first foreign war involved Islamic pirates,” writes the site Government is Not God. “We’re still fighting the same war, but now the Muslims have an ally in the White House – a man who bows to a Saudi Prince, turns NASA into a Muslim outreach program and rewrites history to portray ruthless Islam as American as apple pie.”