Interfaith Iftar at UAE embassy celebrates diversity, tolerance

Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba says bringing people together should be the norm and not the exception

Interfaith leaders, US officials and members of Congress participated at an iftar hosted by the UAE embassy in Washington on May 23. UAE Embassy Washington
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Interfaith leaders, US officials and members of Congress participated on Wednesday in an Iftar hosted by the UAE embassy in Washington to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan.

The evening started with prayers to break the fast and was billed as a spiritual gathering attended by religious leaders from the Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Sikh faiths, commemorating the message of tolerance and outreach that the UAE seeks to represents.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambassador to the US and minister of state Yousef Al Otaiba welcomed over 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,” Mr Al Otaiba said. “In many ways, this gathering reflects my own country, where 200 nationalities and people of all different religious faiths live and worship. The UAE is committed to promoting values of inclusion and tolerance.”

The ambassador also spoke about the importance of bringing people together during Ramadan, and how this should be the norm and not the exception. He noted that this year’s celebration was particularly important as the UAE celebrates 2018 as the “Year of Zayed,” honoring the legacy of UAE Founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

“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 program 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” for giving him 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 senior 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 the US 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 symbolic box of “Oud” incense upon their departure.