Department of Defense celebrates Iftar meal at the Pentagon

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 15, 2013) — The Department of Defense celebrated its 15th Iftar meal, July 12, at the Pentagon.

Attending the event were senior defense leaders, White House and congressional staffers, foreign dignitaries, defense attachés, imams, Gold Star families, and Muslims who work in the defense community.

“The month of Ramadan focuses on a lot of things,” said Col. Thomas Waynick, the Pentagon chaplain. “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.”

In 1999, the Pentagon Chaplain’s office first hosted such a dinner to show solidarity with and support for the Islamic community. They have been doing so each year since.

Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a Muslim, was the guest speaker at this year’s Iftar meal.  he lawmaker spoke about serving humanity. Serving others by tutoring, visiting shut-ins, volunteering time to feed the homeless and building relationships with people less fortunate will help change America, Ellison said.

 

Those in attendance at the Pentagon Iftar were not all Muslim. Steven Redmann, executive director of U.S. Army Headquarters Services, said that though he is not Muslim, he was able to learn from the congressman’s message about service, and find common themes that aligned with his Catholic faith.

At the Pentagon, approximately 30-40 Department of Defense personnel make up a core group of Muslim worshipers, Waynick said.

Across the Army, there are more than 1,600 Muslims, said Lt. Col. Claude Brittian, the deputy Pentagon chaplain. He said that number is not exact, however, because many Muslims do not declare their religion for fear of being ostracized.

American Muslim Leaders Condemn Attacks

American Muslim leaders and organizations rushed on Wednesday to condemn the attacks on American diplomatic outposts in Libya and Egypt, issuing news releases and giving interviews that seemed aimed as much at an American audience as at Muslims overseas.

 

Referring to the anti-Muslim video at the center of the attacks that is believed to be American-made, they said that no matter how offensive the film, violence was unjustified and even un-Islamic. They stressed repeatedly that the film did not represent Americans’ attitudes toward Islam and Muslims. And they said they were appalled that a film that they said was so clearly intended to incite hatred and anger toward the United States had succeeded in doing so.

 

Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America, an umbrella group of American mosques, denounced the violence at a news conference in Washington, appearing alongside a rabbi, a Baptist minister and the Libyan ambassador to the United States, Ali Aujali.

Representative Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota and the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, said in a statement that the video at the center of the attacks was “amateurish and stupid” and “deeply offensive” — not just to Muslims, but to “anyone who respects the faith of others.”

 

Salam al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an advocacy group based in Los Angeles, said in a statement: “America is our home and is home to Islam, like so many other religions. Anyone who attempts to promote the misconception that Muslims are not integrated into America is fomenting more fear and destructive behavior.”

Second Muslim elected to congress

On Tuesday, Indiana voters elected Andre Carson to Congress, making Carson the second Muslim elected to Congress in U.S. history. Andre Carson is the grandson of the late Democratic Representative Julia Carson, and was elected to serve the balance of her term in the House of Representatives; Julia died in December 2007, after serving 11 years in the district. Andre, who beat the republican candidate with 52% of the vote compared to his opponent’s 44%, converted to Islam about a decade ago. He becomes the second of that faith to be elected, the first being Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, also a Democrat.