EVENT RECAP: RAMADAN COMMUNITY IFTAR
Co-organized by the American Egyptian Youth Network and the Cordoba Initiative, a multi-national, multi-faith organization dedicated to improving Muslim-West relations, the Ramadan Community Iftar took place at New York University in the Grand Hall on June 20th, 2015. The event celebrated interfaith community and cross-cultural exchange by bringing together a diverse group of prominent individuals and passionate youth leaders for an evening of engaging dialogue and cultural immersion. There were approximately 150 people in attendance, including VIP guests, families, and undergraduate students of all different backgrounds and nationalities. Representatives from the Consulate General of Egypt, United Nations, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, NYPD, Arab American Bar Association, Nahdet el Mahrousa, Beth Israel Medical Center, Brick Presbyterian Church, American Pulse, Agolo, and VisCorps were also present at the Iftar.
Ramadan is considered to be the Muslim holy month in which the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohamed. For the duration of the month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from food and water during daylight hours. Iftar is the official meal eaten at sunrise when Muslims break their fast. Ramadan is also a community activity to strengthen social ties and improve relations in families and among society as a whole. It’s a time for connection, group learning, group worship, and mass charity and caring.
Amir Abdallah, founder of the American Egyptian Youth Network, delivered the opening speech at the beginning of the evening. He talked about AEYN’s mission to build a vibrant intercultural community of American, Egyptian and global youth leaders with the ultimate goal of supporting the advancement of Egyptian youth. He also talked about the importance of bringing together passionate, driven youth who care about Egypt’s future, empowering one another to excel and make a difference. Near the end, Mr. Abdallah revealed details about a new project AEYN is currently developing: OneEgypt, an online portal that aims to create a unified gateway to people, organizations and projects with a shared interest in Egypt and the Middle East.
Keynote speaker Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder and Chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, then delivered a speech on Forging an Islamic American Identity: Celebrating the Spirit of Ramadan in America. It focused on the significance of Ramadan to Muslims and the community’s current need to form a distinct identity in the United States. For decades Muslims have immigrated to America from all around the world. Today, Muslims from different countries and various sects of Islam make up a significant group in the US. According to Imam Abdul Rauf, “Muslims are now following the same immigrant journey that so many faiths have experienced as they adapted to their new homeland.” He talked about how modern day Muslims need to focus on building an Islamic American identity, similar to the way Christians and Jews have done so in the past. He stressed the importance of learning from the experiences of other faith communities and gaining knowledge from listening to stories about their journeys. Read Imam Abdul Rauf’s article in the Huffington Post, Ramadan and the Blending of American Muslims.
Following the keynote speech was a Q&A discussion with Imam Abdul Rauf moderated by Ambassador Frank Ricciardone, former U.S Ambassador to Turkey and Egypt and Director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council. In this portion of the evening, the audience was able to directly ask Imam Abdul Rauf questions on a wide range of topics.
For the last portion of the night, attendees enjoyed a catered Iftar dinner service which included traditional treats such as dates, apricot juice, and oriental sweets. The Egyptian band Ana Masry concluded the evening with an amazing musical performance, playing classical Arabic favorites and a variety of Muslim and Coptic hymns that showcase Egypt’s rich and diverse musical heritage.