Speeches & Articles
Iftar Remarks of U.S. Consul General Henry V. Jardine
October, 18 2006
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for joining us here at the U.S. Consulate General for Iftar and I wish you all “Ramzan Mubarak”.
I would like to thank Maulana Wafaul Mustafa Amjadi for leading the prayers this evening.
The Consulate’s hosting of Iftar reflects our commitment to participating in the greater community of Kolkata, a great city with diverse communities, including the Muslim community which contributes to enriching the local culture and tradition.
Ramadan commemorates the revelation of God’s word to the Prophet. It is a time of prayer and reflection, of fasting and personal sacrifice, and of charity and compassion. In the United States, Muslims from diverse backgrounds come together to pray and celebrate this holy month, much the same way as others in the Muslim world. For many American Muslims – nearly three quarters of whom were not born in the United States – Ramadan provides the opportunity to share the traditions and customs of their various homelands.
Islam being the fastest growing religion in the United States, awareness about the significance of Ramadan is also growing. In fact, Ramadan awareness events are held on college and university campuses across the country. These include library displays, Iftar dinners and special classes about Islam. During this month, American Muslims educate non-Muslims in American about Islam by holding open house events at local mosques and Islamic centers, organizing Eid Bazaars, conducting public lectures and hosting dinners for the homeless.
A number of websites have been created to help Muslims across America reach out to non-Muslims in their local communities during the Ramadan period. Leading Muslim-American organizations distribute “Islam Resource Kits” to promote education and information about Islam. In some communities, special prayer services are organized to bring together Muslims, Christians and Jews. Interfaith Iftar dinners are organized in communities across the United States. In some areas, including Washington DC, local television stations broadcast daily Ramadan greetings.
For the last few years, the United States Department of State has hosted Iftar dinners for prominent American Muslim leaders, and Muslim prayers have been offered in the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress. At this year’s Iftar at the White House, President George W. Bush said:
"Islam is a religion that brings hope and comfort to more than a billion people around the world. It has transcended racial and ethnic divisions. It has given birth to a rich culture of learning and literature and science…For Muslims in America and around the world, Ramadan is a special time for prayer and fasting, contemplation of God’s greatness, and charity and service to those in need.
And for people of all faiths, it is a good time to reflect on the values we hold in common, including love of family, gratitude to God, the importance of community, and a commitment to tolerance and religious freedom.
America is a land of many faiths, and we welcome and honor the Muslim faith in our nation. Our society is enriched by our Muslim citizens. Your commitment to your faith reminds us all of the precious gift of religious freedom in our country.
America is a more hopeful nation because of the talents and generosity and compassion of our Muslim citizens."
Recently, the U.S. Postal Service issued the first-ever postage stamp to commemorate Eid. American Muslims were very active in urging the U.S. government to issue the postage stamp – in fact, more than 5,000 Muslim children wrote to the Postmaster General and American Muslim groups lobbied the U.S. Congress for the issuance of the stamp. This stamp signifies the importance accorded to Muslims in America.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say that the Calcutta Consulate has focused consistently on positive interaction with the local Muslim community. We organized a Mushaira at American Center, and donated books to 10 Madrassas in our Consular district.
Earlier this year, we hosted an All India Islamic Educators’ Conference at Raichak. In addition, we initiated Micro ACCESS program with three Muslim institutions, organized film shows for students of Muslim institutions, and organized special exchange programs for Muslim community leaders and educators to visit the United States and learn how the Muslim community contributes to society in our country.
The American Center in Calcutta organized speaker programs with a number of Muslim scholars from the United States and has made considerable effort to broaden and deepen the exchange between the Muslim community in India and the people of the United States.
During tonight’s event, I would encourage you all to look at some of our displays showing the work that the Consulate has done to enhance our outreach in Eastern India. We also have a display from our Library as well and you can see a sample of some of the materials and books that we have that might be of interest to you.
I would like to end by reading a very moving portion of the prayer of IMAM EID, who led the Namaaz at the Iftar held at the White House yesterday evening:
“Praise be to God who created us from Adam and Eve, who established us on Earth with different nations and languages; who emphasized in His sacred books that nations should strive in the struggle to establish ways and means to know one another and live peacefully together.”
Thank you all for coming tonight, please continue to enjoy your time with us.