White House Once Again Celebrates Eid
by M Muhammad Ahmed
U.S. President Joseph Biden invited almost 200 American Muslim leaders and organizers to the White House for an Eid ceremony on Eid Day, May 2. During the event, the president recognized the importance of the American Muslim community, pointing out their contributions to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and being active parts of their communities.
In his remarks, he said, “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.”
President Biden emphasized his administration’s commitment to religious freedom and inclusion. He cited his nominations of the first Muslim American to be appointed to the federal bench, the new Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, and numerous other appointments to important positions tackling economic development, health care and national security.
Muslim guests attending the White House Ceremony came from across the country. Arooj Aftab, the Pakistani Grammy winner of the Best Global Music Performance, recited some Rumi poetry. Other attendees were elected officials, community leaders and activists. The elected officials included the Congressional Reps Andre Carson and Rashida Tlaib, Princeton Mayor Sadaf Jaffer, Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, and the Dearborn Heights Mayor Bill Bazzi, who was one of the few Republicans present.
Many advocacy groups were also present. The Indian American Muslim Council Chairperson Rasheed Ahmed said, “We are grateful to the US President for recognizing and celebrating Islam and Muslims as an integral part of the American life.” Other representatives came from the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, Yemeni and Pakistan advocacy groups.
A sizable contingent of guests came from Emgage, which played a major role in mobilizing the Muslim community to vote for the 2020 elections with their Million Muslim Votes Campaign. Mark Crain, Executive director of Dream of Detroit and a board member for Emgage said. “Even though we’re a small community in this country, we have a rich history and a big role to play in its future. Whether at the White House or the State House, civic engagement is a must.”
Most attendees were grateful that the White House reinstated the tradition of the annual Eid celebration which was started by President Bill Clinton. The Eid and Ramadan celebrations were stopped by the Trump administration as part of its general policy of marginalizing Muslim Americans. A virtual Eid event was held in 2021 by the Biden administration, but it was boycotted by many Muslims due to the president’s inaction against Israeli violence against civilians and violation of the holy sanctuary of Al Aqsa in Jerusalem.
There were concerns that the timing of the Eid event was insensitive to Muslims who traditionally spend the day with family. Arshia Ali-Khan, executive director of the Muslim Legal Fund of America, wrote on a Facebook post that she was also invited to the White House Event, but declined: “[The invitation] was definitely something of value… [however] my children whom I love deeply won.”
Many of the guests used the event to educate and uplift their community. Amin and Sana Aaser, part of the team behind the popular kids’ media platform, Noor Kids, brought their kids to DC so they do not have to spend Eid apart. Amin created a Youtube video about his experience and gave an insider tour of the white house watched by thousands of viewers.