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Guest list for Obama's White House Ramadan dinner

(UPDATE: 5:48 p.m. The president's dinner remarks -- sans teleprompter -- have been added to the end of this item.)

The other day President Obama issued a special message to the Muslim world for the annual Ramadan holiday. Tonight, before leaving Wednesday for the rest of his stay-cation at Camp David, the president hosts a White House banquet to celebrate the same holiday.

Invited guests include three Cabinet secretaries, numerous diplomats, five members of Congress including the first Muslim, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and the chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization mission.

Here is the list of invited guests, as provided by the White House:

Cabinet: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Deputy Cabinet secretaries: Commerce Deputy Secretary Dennis Hightower and Education Deputy Secretary Adam Miller.

Congress: Reps. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.) and Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.).

Diplomats: Ambassador Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al Hussein of Jordan; Ambassador Adel A.M. Al Jubeir of Saudi Arabia; Ambassador Husain Haqqani of Pakistan; Ambassador Erlan A. Idrissov of Kazakhstan; Ambassador His Excellency Said ...

... Tayeb Jawad of Afghanistan; Ambassador Aziz Mekouar of Morocco; Ambassador Peter N.R.O. Ogego of Kenya.

Also, Ambassador Roble Olhaye of D’jibouti; Ambassador Michael Oren of Israel; Ambassador Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat of Indonesia; Ambassador Klaus Scharioth of Germany; Ambassador Meera Shankar of India; Ambassador Nabi Sensoy of Turkey; Ambassador Sir Nigel Elton Sheinwald of Britain; Ambassador Sameh Hassan Shoukry of Egypt; Ambassador Samir Shakir Mahmood Sumaida’ie of Iraq; and Ambassador Pierre Nicolas Vimont of France.

Also the following Chargé d'Affaires: Sheikh Mohammed Belal of Bangladesh; Ilango Karuppanan of Malaysia; Mohamed O Maiga; Angela Oi Foong Shim of Brunei; Baba Gana Wakil of Nigeria; and MaeDemocrat Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesotan Areikat, chief of mission, Palestine Liberation Organization.

Members of the public: Bilquis Abdul-Qaadir, University of Memphis; Professor Azizah Al-Hibri, University of Richmond School of Law; Reema Ali, Karamah, Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights; Hasan Chandoo, Oppenheimer & Co.; Rabbi Nathan Diament, director, Institute for Public Affairs, Orthodox Union; Imam Plemon El-Amin, Atlanta Masjid al-Islam.

Also, Wahid Hamid, PepsiCo; Dina Hammad; Lutfi Hassan; Nashala Hearn; Rosalind Hearn; Imam Yahya Hendi, chaplain, Georgetown University; pastor Joel Hunter, Northland Church; Nooman Husain; and Imad Hussain.

Additionally, Sanford Ibrahim, CEO, Radian Group; Jameel Jaffer, staff attorney, ACLU; Mrs. Elsheba Khan; Dr. Mansur Khan, UMMA Community Clinic; Farhana Khera, Muslim Advocates; Lt. Commander Abuhena Saifulislam, U.S. Marine Corps; and Kareem Salama.

Also, Imam Yusuf Saleem; Masjid Muhammad; Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president, Islamic Society of North America; Farooq Mitha; Dalia Mogahed, director, Gallup Center for Muslim Studies; Hutham Olayan, Olayan America Corp.; Eboo Patel, Interfaith Youth Corps; and Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism.

Additionally, Mina Trudeau, executive director, El Fatiha Foundation; J. Saleh Williams, Congressional Muslim Staffers Assn.; and Mohamed Zakariya, Zakariya Calligraphy.


Remarks by the President, State Dining Room, as provided by the White House

THE PRESIDENT: Please, everybody have a seat. Thank you. Well, it is my great pleasure to host all of you here at the White House to mark this special occasion -- Ramadan Kareem.

I want to say that I'm deeply honored to welcome so many members of the diplomatic corps, as well as several members of my administration and distinguished members of Congress, including the first two Muslims to serve in Congress -- Keith Ellison and Andre Carson. Where are they? (Applause.)

Just a few other acknowledgements I want to make. We have Sen. Richard Lugar here, who's our ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.  Where is Dick Lugar?  There he is. (Applause.)  Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. (Applause.)  Rep. Rush Holt is here. Thank you, Rush.  (Applause.)  Have we found you a seat, Rush? (Laughter.)

REPRESENTATIVE HOLT:  I’m on my way to the train.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I got you. We also have here -- Secretary of Defense Gates is here.  Secretary Gates.  (Applause.)  Our attorney general, Eric Holder. (Applause.)  And Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is here. (Applause.)

And most of all, I want to welcome all the American Muslims from many walks of life who are here. This is just one part of our effort to celebrate Ramadan, and continues a long tradition of hosting iftars here at the White House.

For well over a billion Muslims, Ramadan is a time of intense devotion and reflection. It's a time of service and support for those in need. And it is also a time for family and friends to come together in a celebration of their faith, their communities, and the common humanity that all of us share. It is in that spirit that I welcome each and every one of you to the White House.

Tonight's iftar is a ritual that is also being carried out this Ramadan at kitchen tables and mosques in all 50 states. Islam, as we know, is part of America.  And like the broader American citizenry, the American Muslim community is one of extraordinary dynamism and diversity -- with families that stretch back generations and more recent immigrants; with Muslims of countless races and ethnicities, and with roots in every corner of the world.

Indeed, the contribution of Muslims to the United States are too long to catalog because Muslims are so interwoven into the fabric of our communities and our country.  American Muslims are successful in business and entertainment; in the arts and athletics; in science and in medicine. Above all, they are successful parents, good neighbors and active citizens.

So on this occasion, we celebrate the Holy Month of Ramadan, and we also celebrate how much Muslims have enriched America and its culture -- in ways both large and small.  And with us here tonight, we see just a small sample of those contributions. Let me share a few stories with you briefly.

Elsheba Khan's son, Kareem, made the ultimate sacrifice for his country when he lost his life in Iraq. Kareem joined the military as soon as he finished high school. He would go on to win the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, along with the admiration of his fellow soldiers. In describing her son, Elsheba said, "He always wanted to help any way that he could." 

Tonight, he's buried alongside thousands of heroes in Arlington National Cemetery. A crescent is carved into his grave, just as others bear the Christian cross or the Jewish star. These brave Americans are joined in death as they were in life -- by a common commitment to their country and the values that we hold dear.

One of those values is the freedom to practice your religion -- a right that is enshrined in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. Nashala Hearn, who joins us from Muskogee, Okla., took a stand for that right at an early age. When her school district told her that she couldn't wear the hijab, she protested that it was a part of her religion. 

The Department of Justice stood behind her, and she won her right to practice her faith. She even traveled to Washington to testify before Congress. Her words spoke to a tolerance that is far greater than mistrust -- when she first wore her headscarf to school, she said, "I received compliments from the other kids."

Another young woman who has thrived in her school is Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir.  She's not even 5'5'' -- where's Bilqis?  Right here.  Stand up, Bilqis, just so that we -- (laughter) -- I want everybody to know -- she's got heels on.  She's 5'5'' -- Bilqis broke Rebecca Lobo's record for the most points scored by any high school basketball player in Massachusetts history. (Applause.) 

She recently told a reporter, "I'd like to really inspire a lot of young Muslim girls if they want to play basketball.  Anything is possible. They can do it too."  As an honor student, as an athlete on her way to Memphis, Bilqis is an inspiration not simply to Muslim girls -- she's an inspiration to all of us.

Of course, we know that when it comes to athletes who have inspired America, any list would include the man known simply as The Greatest.  And while Muhammad Ali could not join us tonight, it is worth reflecting upon his remarkable contributions, as he's grown from an unmatched fighter in the ring to a man of quiet dignity and grace who continues to fight for what he believes -- and that includes the notion that people of all faiths holds things in common. 

I love this quote. A few years ago, he explained this view -- and this is part of why he's The Greatest -- saying, "Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams -- they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do -- they all contain truths."

They all contain truths. Among those truths are the pursuit of peace and the dignity of all human beings.  That must always form the basis upon which we find common ground. And that is why I am so pleased that we are joined tonight not only by so many outstanding Muslim Americans and representatives of the diplomatic corps, but people of many faiths -- Christians, Jews and Hindus -- along with so many prominent Muslims.

Together, we have a responsibility to foster engagement grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect.  And that's one of my fundamental commitments as president, both at home and abroad. That is central to the new beginning that I've sought between the United States and Muslims around the world. And that is a commitment that we can renew once again during this holy season.

So tonight, we celebrate a great religion and its commitment to justice and progress. We honor the contributions of America's Muslims, and the positive example that so many of them set through their own lives. And we rededicate ourselves to the work of building a better and more hopeful world.

So thanks to all of you for taking the time to be here this evening. I wish you all a very blessed Ramadan.  And with that, I think we can start a feast.  I don't know what's on the menu, but I'm sure it will be good.  (Laughter.) Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)    ###        

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Photo: Office of Rep. Keith Ellison

Comments () | Archives (74)

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This is offensive on so many levels. Kids can't pray in school and now we celebrate Ramadan... and include members of the PLO on the invite list? And I thought GW was a tool and a miserable failure. I would rather be hated and feared rather than liked and dead and/or defeated. Peace though strength. NEWS FLASH ... WE are not a Muslim nation. In God We Trust. Wake up Barry!


Comments aren't moderated. I see that they are censored at the LA Times. I suppose that I expect no less.

Duh, Who would'a thunk it?

Is this still America?


See, I told you he would'nt post my comment, didn't I?
Here it is again.
The President has not picked out a Christian Church like he said he would back in December. He would let Michele do it. Well, it hasn't come to pass after 8 months. But, they will celebtrate the Muslim Holy Day with other muslims.
If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck!

you've got be kidding... your joking... right?

This is very interesting. Years ago some one said to me this kind of party shall be avoided if it's for political reasons.
I'm hoping this is above and beyond politics:) with the the current President, I think I can be sure of that :)

what do you think--?

It's a shame that President Obama nixed the National Day of Prayer Ceremonies and instead issued a paper proclamation and then turns around and has a White House Celebration for a Muslim holiday. I have no problem with the Muslim holiday but I do have a problem when it is celebrated in lieu of the National Day of Prayer. The more that he shows his true colors - the steeper the dive in his ratings.

You'd think that someone at the White House could get this straight. There are no Lieutenant Commanders in the U.S. Marine Corps. Only in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard.

But then again it's not surprising considering the dearth of military experience amongst the commissars.

Isn't this the same President who did not hold an event for the traditional National Day of Prayer? But he has a dinner for Ramadan?

Ah, what?

Menu: Pork chops wrapped in bacon, sweet and sour pork, roast ham, pigs in blankets, barbecued baby back ribs, pork sausages and Spam.

Glory, glory, glory!

May the God above help us all.

This cannot be true???? The idiot who calls himself the president of our nation would not even attend the Prayer Day at the White House - the same one that covers up all the 'religious articles at colleges when he speaks (ie Georgetown U) then he does this>??????????????? - Where is the mainstream media? Oh this IS the LA Times?
Can't wait till the rest of the wimps that call themselves "news folks" write about this. I know it is going on ALL my mailing lists !

So, let me get this right. Barack Obama will have a dinner to celebrate Ramadan but he declined to have the whitehouse breakfast prayer? I dont even go to church and this is strange to me.

President George W. Bush held 8 such dinners -- on the occasion of Ramadan; and I doubt very much that any of those that are alarmed by President Obama doing the same, were troubled previously. Both our current and previous presidents, Christians both, recognize they serve as president of the entire nation -- which includes Muslims, Jews, non-believers, and those of other faiths, not just Christians.

Do people not understand that Bush also had iftars? Obama has hosted Jewish figures for passover in April. Is that not allowed either? America is a pluralistic society, get your head in that fact!

All the people complaining on this page - President Bush held one of these years every year. Does he get the same amount of vitriol from you?

I appreciate this gesture by President Obama. It makes American Muslims feel part of this country and increases their love for this country. Thank you Mr Obama.

For irrational bigots making such a hue and cry over this: There are 3 million US citizens who observe Islam as their religion. American Muslims serve in the U.S. military and several have dies in Iraq and Afghanistan and buried in Arlington National Cemetery with a Crescent on their gravestones. A Christian President having Ramadan dinner is like a Jewish person inviting his Chrsitian friends for a Christmas dinner. There is nothing wrong or worrisome about it. Since your eyes are closed and you probably didn't notice, the Israeli ambassador was there alongwith the Indian and British ones.

Barrack make sure all the Muslims get covered under Obamacare!

Why not he is only popular in the Muslim world now!

It's only the separation of "church and state,"

"not mosque and state!"

Obama is so blatantly saying to all the Christians in this country "in your face!"

Relax folks. This event was held by GW and by President Clinton. It is just a way to get to know and appreciate people from the American Muslim community; a community that gets dumped on more than most.

Newsflash... Christianity or predominant Catholicism is on the decline in this country and worldwide. And he's obviously trying to send out an olive branch to muslim nations. What's so wrong about that? This country is not the same country it was 20 years ago and won't be 20 years from now. Judaism and Islam are both on the rise significantly, and it's time we learned to live with it.

calm down, everyone. it's one ramadan dinner. so what if he nixed the national day of prayer? he'll still have a christmas dinner. who knows! -- maybe he'll even have a hanukkah dinner and/or a diwali dinner.

This President is not only a joke but an insult to our Country. Why doesn't he go back to his Muslim nation and celebrate it there with his buddies. He states that we as a Nation are not Christian. He doesn't speak for the 84% of those who relate to Christianity.

He is an embarrasment ot me and this once Great Nation. Next he will want Sheria law here and that is when he will cross the line!!!!!

relax ! all i have read below is knee jerk reactions of the hubris injected into our nation by 8 years of Bush. Obama has an immense clean up job, I wish this nation truly deserved this visionary leader, after reading some of these coments, it appears that Obama is a premature phenomenon and could be a mistake. Maybe our nation needs another 8 bush years of darkness and 8 years of mental rehabilitation to see light again. Stop this pettiness, Obama is smarter than you think.

According to Wikipeida, "George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan each hosted special events for the day (National Day of Prayer) only once during their respective administrations." Clinton held none, so it isn't that unusual for a President not to hold a National Day of Prayer at the White House.

I am not a Democrat and I did vote for McCain (which I would do again), but I do support the idea of winning the hearts and minds of the Muslims of the world as George W. Bush wanted to do. Showing them that we don't hate Muslims and that we aren't their enemy is good for our country and for them. It will help deflate popular support for radical organizations such as al-Qaeda. On this issue, at least, I think the President is acting very intelligently.

Behold, "The straw that broke the camel's back" - While I think this is one of the few courageous and decent ideas Obama's handlers have had, the timing is extremely foolhardy. I believe Israel will now feel compelled to abandon hope on Obama. This Ramadan dinner isn't getting much play on Google News, or other 'filtered' venues because they are exercising ‘damage control’ for Obama, but the psychic significance of this event to the most rabid of Zionists is perhaps on par with the notion of the USA selling Syria nuclear weapons and Patriot missiles. The extremist Zionists wielding overt and covert power will play their hand at a time and place of their choosing as they have always done. I think this event will at a minimum signify the end of Jewish-controlled mainstream media's love fest with our Dear Leader. This is a colossal mistake in timing and reveals this "community organizer" as an egotistical, rank amateur with brash idiotic advisors.

All you whiners gave George Bush a pass when he held a Ramandan Dinner.

THis is Mohammad Saboor from kabul Afghanistan, congregulatoin to all musilim in all over the world that Mr.Obama has celebarated the first day of Ramadan Sarif and I really apreacite his good and lovely action and I hope that one day comes that no one be kafer in all over the world inshallah it will come in the nearest year and we are all musilims are looking forward on that day .

We may want to remember that the PLO was dancing in the streets when the terrorists flew our planes into the towers and Pentagon on 9/11 and now 8 years later their dancing in the White House. Yes, change you can't believe in!!

Our beloved country is toast! Our only hope is to protest, call and write every Senator and Congressman. Threaten to vote them out of office. THEN DO IT! A president is a lame duck if he can't pass legislation. 2010 is right around the corner.

I would feel better if Obama had scheduled the Ramadan event as a luncheon.

It's not a "stay-cation" when you have to take a helicopter to get to your destination. It's a vacation. Another one. You know, right after he got back from his $100,000/week jaunt to Martha's Vineyard.

I am very surprised by all these ignorant comments, where all these people were the last decade, the previous presidents of the united states have always celebrated Ramadan and invited all the moslem and diplomat community to a dinner during ramadan, is this the first time you know about that?? people go get more educated and read more before you start picking and critisizing your president! and why is it that is bothering you that much, ISLAM is part of the United States of America and will always be weather you like it or not!!!!

What exactly is a National prayer day?? Is it some religious event for Christians, Jews?? Or is it some Hallmark holiday like Valentines day and Friendship day?? Did he neglect any of christian holidays such as Easter or Christmas?? I think these get more importance than some hallmark holiday of National Prayer day? Ramadan is a "religious" holiday..not hallmark day..similar to Chrismtas. And no harm if he's recognizing it and honoring them.

For years now the public school system has inefeect banned religion. No child has been allowed to pray or display their faith in school. Yet this student in Oklahoma was permitted to do so with the blessings of the Justice Dept. Why no action from the ACLU? What is unique in this case?

While previous presidents may have held dinners for Ramadan, they never disrespected the National Day of Prayer the way Obama did this year. That non-observance, Obama's slap in the face to Christians, has not gone without notice, and THAT is why many have commented here with complaint.

You have GOT to be kidding me! Does ANYONE need ANYMORE evidence that this guy is a muslim?? WOW!

Can't wait for the libs to call for separation of church and state!

Do we really need our president to "educate" us on this horrible "religion"???

Hey everyone don't get so upset over this...President Obama needs these people and so do we all. There are good and bad in all religions and nationalities and they are no worse then any other or our own. We take the good and leave the bad and that is what the president is doing.

We need to accept that the world is changing faster than we expect and will continue to do so ...

The faster you all accept that we are all one Nation under God regardless the nationality, race, religion!

Keep going Obama!

It is interesting that the President is so moved to address the 'courageous' young woman who fought to wear her hijab to school b/c of her religious beliefs. The President claims we should respect individuals religious beliefs, yet when it comes to those whose religious beliefs may interfere with their practice of medicine, those religious beliefs, according to Obama, must be put aside or the individual should just find another profession. Obama may claim to be tolerant of all faiths and that we are all free to practice our faith, but his actions speak of something else. He appears to be very anti-Christian, definitely anti-Catholic, and very much pro-Muslim. When will we return to the constitution which allows us to practice our faith without interference from the government. I guess if you want to wear a hijab, that's okay. But if you do not want to participate in assisting women obtain abortions, your faith must be left at the door. I pray our nation survives the term of this president.

Actually, the White House did get Abuhena Saifulislam's rank correct. He is a Navy Lieutenant Commander serving as a Marine Corp chaplain.

Ok, so previous Presidents also had Ramadan dinners; but not like these guests of Mr. 'O's! And our Previous President ALSO remembered the National Day of Prayer, since he is (still) a devout Christian; what did Mr. 'O' do? He completely forgot about it or that he just didn't want to do it! Seems to me where his highest allegiance is showing! Tells the Europeans and SWA that "We are not a Christian nation"?!! Bows to another country! Apologizes for America, when our military men and women put their lives on the line for us and then they have to hear that from a Commander-in-Chief?! Then he releases terrorists out of Gitmo? And then he demands "Miranda Rights" be read to captured terrorists? Are Any of you PEOPLE AWAKE YET?!!

Who gives a damn about Ramadan except Satan and his minions (1 occupoies the White House !)

How many Christian dinners does the white house have

President Obama is one of the best Presidents of the United States. I have followed all the Presidents since 1963 and I consider him to be the greatest and best. He is so hard workers and works all the time to help all the people irrespective of their religious or any other background. He has done so much in such a short period of time. Unfortunately many people do not appreciate his contributions and criticize him for all the ills and the mess which is left for him to deal with eg. hatred for the United States, bankrupt treasury and so many jobless people. May God Bless our President and his family so that he is able to complete his plans for the good of all people through his peaceful approach to the international issues.

Were you republicans sleeping I when Bush threw Ramadan Iftar parties? How come you didn't care then? Obama is trying to mend the wounds caused by Bush and you want to call him a traitor?

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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