President Joe Biden hosts Eid Al Fitr reception at White House

Previous administration had cancelled decades-long tradition that started with Bill Clinton

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US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted a reception to celebrate Eid Al Fitr on Monday afternoon in the East Room of the White House.

Ms Biden opened the ceremony by quoting the poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran, saying: “Your joy is sorrow unmasked. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”

“It is tempting to want to live in nothing but moments of happiness, but every year the holy celebration of Ramadan teaches that want inspires us to be generous and kind, that weakness can strengthen our convictions, that hunger makes each meal taste sweeter and reminds us that it's our families, our friends at our faith that truly feeds our souls,” she said.

Guests included Talib Shareef, president and imam of Masjid Muhammad, the Nation's Mosque, in Washington; Pakistani vocalist and composer Arooj Aftab; Muslim-American congressman Andre Carson; and Madinah Wilson-Anton, state representative of Delaware and manager of academic affairs at the Biden Institute.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who tested positive for coronavirus last week, was absent, though she had been scheduled to attend with first gentleman Doug Emhoff, who attended the event alone.

Mr Shareef opened with an invocation and then thanked the president for hosting the event.

“Being hosted here is an important statement for our nation and for the world, a statement that Islam is a welcomed part of our nation, as are all the other faith traditions, and that the highest office in this land is committed to our nation's foundational values — and laws protecting religious freedom,” he said.

Former president Bill Clinton started the White House tradition of celebrating Eid, though this ended during Donald Trump’s administration.

Andre Carson, a Democrat from Indiana, at a reception to celebrate Eid Al Fitr in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Bloomberg

“Eid Mubarak! Welcome to the White House,” said Mr Biden during the event. “One of the promises that I made when I was running for office was restoring this celebration.”

The packed and masked house held up mobile phones to document the celebration and in many instances showed their appreciation through applause and laughter.

Mr Biden jokingly compared fasting during Ramadan to his Catholic faith and observation of Lent, during which he had to “go 40 days” with “no sweets and no ice cream”.

“Through their fast, Muslims demonstrate empathy for the suffering of others, strengthening and renewing their resolve to give generously and make the world a better place,” said Mr Biden.

“Muslims make our nation stronger every single day, even as they still face real challenges and threats in our society, including targeted violence and Islamophobia that exist — I mean, it's just astounding.”

In addition to restoring the Eid White House tradition, Mr Biden has also been working to follow through on his campaign promise of building an administration that values diversity and “looks like America”, nominating two Muslim Americans to the federal bench.

Updated: May 02, 2022, 11:14 PM
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