Interfaith iftar at UAE embassy in Washington celebrates diversity and tolerance

Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba welcomed more than 150 guests to a Ramadan tent set up for the occasion

From left: Father Raymond Kemp, Imam Hamza Yusuf, Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the US, and Rabbi Jack Moline attended the interfaith event in a specially constructed Ramadan tent. Joyce Karam
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Interfaith leaders, officials and members of US Congress participated in an iftar hosted by the UAE embassy in Washington on Wednesday to celebrate Ramadan.

The evening, which started with prayers to break the fast, was a spiritual gathering attended by religious leaders from the Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Sikh faiths, and commemorated the message of tolerance and outreach that the United Arab Emirates represents.

Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the US and Minister of State, welcomed more than 150 attendees gathered under a Ramadan tent set up especially for the occasion.

“Joining us for iftar tonight are friends from all corners of this country and the world. In many ways, this gathering reflects my own country, where 200 nationalities and people of all different religious faiths live and worship,” Mr Al Otaiba said. “The UAE is committed to promoting values of inclusion and tolerance.”

The ambassador also spoke about the importance of bringing people together during Ramadan. He noted that this year’s celebration was particularly important as 2018 is the Year of Zayed, honouring the UAE's Founding Father.

“Sheikh Zayed embodied the values that we celebrate during Ramadan: compassion, philanthropy, and community building,” the UAE ambassador said. “During Ramadan in particular, I hope we can draw inspiration from his leadership – to show compassion to our fellow men and women, to give a little bit more, to reach out to our friends and neighbours.”

The programme featured remarks by prominent interfaith religious leaders, including Zaytuna College founder Imam Hamza Yusuf, Georgetown University senior research fellow Father Raymond Kemp and Interfaith Alliance president Rabbi Jack Moline.

Imam Yusuf spoke of his relationship with Sheikh Zayed. He grew up in California but called UAE “a second home” and explained how he was given a scholarship to learn Arabic and Islam. He recalled Sheikh Zayed dispatching him to Africa on philanthropic missions to help with issues such as drought, health and education.

Both Father Kemp and Rabbi Moline underscored the importance of dialogue and inclusion to enhance mutual understanding and create more tolerant societies.

Other special guests included US government officials and community leaders. Representatives John Delaney, Brendan Boyle, Tom Suozzi and André Carson were in attendance. Mr Carson is the second Muslim to be elected to Congress. Also in attendance were foreign diplomats, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Gulf affairs at the State Department, Tim Lenderking.

The evening was accompanied by spiritual music and each of the guests received a box of incense upon their departure.