Muslims from various communities from the Greater Houston Area came together to celebrate the 2013 Annual Community Iftar on Wednesday July 24 at the Stafford Center, in Stafford, TX. The event was the largest gathering of Houston area Muslims of its kind with representation from a diverse cross segment of local Islamic and Muslim-cultural organizations who felt honored by the participation and support of the Mayor of Houston Annise Parker, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, and State Representative Gene Wu, who all spoke at the event. The community Iftar was also supported by many other elected officials, dignitaries, interfaith & religious leaders, and other special guests like Mike Sullivan, Harris County Tax Assessor, Judge Russ Ridgway Justice of Peace, Harris County Precinct 5, Chief Michael Dirden (HPD) and Mr. Harris Jajoo (Council Member of Sugar Land)
In his address, Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) President Mr. Hashim Badat, stated that this gathering of people from so many different organizations and communities showcased the beauty of Houston having one of the largest American Muslim concentrations of any place in the U.S. â€œ[Tonight] was indeed divinely blessed as it represented true fellowship and spirit of Ramadan in Muslims from all walks of life and communities breaking their fast with other Muslims and their families.â€ While speaking about ISGHâ€™s activities in the greater Houston area, Mr. Badat further stated that â€œalthough the Muslim community in the Greater Houston area is strong & vibrant, in this Holy Month of Ramadan we are reminded of our obligations not just to ourselves and our families, but also to the broader community â€“ especially those in need.â€
Mayor Annise Parker was gracious and supportive in her speech about the Muslim community. She recognized the rich diversity of Houston; she recalled how fond she is of Ramadan Iftar as an event that she looks forward to attending as it brings together in one place a multitude of communities & cultures all with the singular objective of peace, friendship and goodwill.
In his introductory speech, Br. Taslim Siddiqui, President of Pakistan Association of Greater Houston (PAGH), the largest Muslim cultural organization in Texas, complimented and recognized all the organizations and communities that collaborated in making this event a great success.
The keynote Speech at the Iftar was delivered by Imam Isa Parada, a Youth Coordinator and Imam at ISGHâ€™s Maryam Masjid. Speaking about the â€œreligious and human significance of Ramadanâ€, Imam Isa tied the lessons of fasting and empathy to the importance of appreciating our blessing and honoring those blessed by giving and volunteering. He concluded by calling the community to action by getting involved with Houstonâ€™s Volunteer Initiatives Program. Imam Isa recognized the Chief Service Officer at City of Houston, Ms. Katherine Price and encouraged attendees to meet her and learn about volunteering through the Cityâ€™s volunteer programs.â€
Representing the interfaith community were Rev. Greg Han of St. Johnâ€™s School and Rev. Kimberly Orr of Windsor Village United Methodist Church; both of whom were not only outstanding speakers, but it should be noted that they each observed the Islamic fast that day in solidarity with the Muslim community. Rev. Han stated â€œAs you have invited me, so I invite you, even implore or beg you to continue the hard work of community engagement. Engage the City of Houston, other religious communities, your own communities, with the hard questions of learning and goodness. As an educator, I have found these questions to be the ones that challenge students what it means to be a citizen, a thoughtful, engaged, concerned, and productive citizen, in a world whose future often seems unpredictable. Help us help each other, and help our young people, lead in ways we couldnâ€™t think possible, in a world that we canâ€™t even foretell. Our differing faith, yet our shared future, demands no less.â€
Muslim religious supplications were delivered by Allama Mukhtar Naimi in English and Arabic - he also led the Maghrib congregational prayers.
In summary, the 2013 Greater Houston Community Iftar was a night to remember and the sponsoring organizations were honored and blessed by the tremendous support from the community, the enlightening speeches shared with us by our civic and religious leaders, and by the dedicated volunteers from which special recognition is due to the outstanding logistical support of the Houston Ismaili Volunteer Group.
The organizing committee of the event has sent their note of thank to all the various sponsoring, collaborating organizations, community media, and everyone who joined that evening.