U.S. Arab Chamber Hosts Eighth Annual Iftar Dinner in Washington DC
One-of-a-kind Ramadan Tradition, the most Elegant Iftar in America, brings Together Leaders from all Walks of Life
“During this holy month, we reassess our humanity, and we reassess our humility. During Ramadan, we also reassess our ethics and morality.”
— Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat
In the final days of Ramadan, the holy month observed by Muslims all over the world, the National U.S. – Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) hosted its eighth annual Iftar dinner in honor of the Arab diplomatic community and the League of Arab States. Twenty-nine diplomats from 16 Arab nations attended the event, including Chiefs of Mission from countries in North Africa and the Arabian Gulf.
Held at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Washington DC, the Iftar drew senior government officials, business executives, and community leaders of multiple faiths from around the USA. To see a three-minute video of this event, please click here.
Sponsors, led by The Ritz-Carlton Hotel and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, help to make the event possible each year. Additional sponsors this year included Black & Veatch, Chevron, Lockheed Martin, PhRMA, Pragma Corporation, and the Wolf Trap Foundation, which is featuring the Caracalla Dance Theater of Lebanon on Wednesday, June 12.
The Importance of Iftar During Ramadan
Breaking the fast (Iftar) during Ramadan is a traditional event performed daily by the estimated 1.8 billion Muslims around the globe. Ramadan is a holy month of spiritual cleansing in which adherents of Islam rededicate themselves to God, worship, and reading the Quran, Islam’s holiest book. The month-long period is marked by fasting, personal sacrifice, self-discipline, and increased generosity, especially toward the underprivileged.
David Hamod, NUSACC’s President & CEO, noted, “The Golden Rule tells us that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Actions speak louder than words, and how we treat others reflects on our own humaneness.” So, in the spirit of Ramadan, he suggested, “Whatever one’s faith and whatever one’s ‘tribe’, let us be remembered for our respect and tolerance.”
NUSACC Iftar: Attracting Leaders from All Walks of Life
It has become fashionable in recent years to host Iftar dinners as a way to strengthen relationships between Muslims and other communities. The NUSACC Iftar, now in its eighth year, was the first of its kind. Today, it is widely regarded as the most elegant Iftar in America, in large part because of the event’s association with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
“I am incredibly humbled and honored to represent a company that is built on a commitment to service, both in its hotels and its communities,” said George Munz, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C. “Together with NUSACC, we created a special Iftar dinner that cultivated a sense of community. On behalf of the ladies and gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton, we are thrilled to continue to strengthen our relationship with the National U.S. – Arab Chamber of Commerce, and we look forward to working together to celebrate global communities.”
The Ritz-Carlton, the Luxury Brand Leader of Marriott International, was a leading sponsor of this year’s NUSACC Iftar.
The NUSACC Iftar is also recognized as one of the most important events of the year to celebrate the Arab diplomatic corps in the United States. As in the past, the UAE Embassy was a leading sponsor of this year’s NUSACC Iftar.
“Inclusion and tolerance are values that were ingrained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Emirati society since before our country’s founding in 1971,” noted H.E. Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE Ambassador to the United States. He went on to say, “These founding values have remained an integral part of the UAE’s identity, especially as Emiratis celebrate 2019 as the ‘Year of Tolerance’.”
Honoring the Diplomats
NUSACC’s Iftar dinner provides an opportunity to gain a better understanding of Islamic customs and traditions. The event also honors Arab embassies and consulates, as well as the League of the Arab States, which formally recognizes NUSACC as a business gateway between the United States and the 22 countries of the Arab world. Nearly 30 Arab diplomats attended this year’s dinner, representing the following nations:
United Arab Emirates
“Our Chamber is proud to partner with the Arab embassies and consulates across the United States,” noted Rabih Mogharbel, NUSACC’s Vice President for Business Development. “We support these diplomats on a daily basis and, without their support and encouragement, NUSACC could not do its job effectively.”
Offerings of the Imam
Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat – President of the Islamic Affairs Council of Maryland, and Founder of the Civilizations Exchange & Cooperation Foundation – offered remarks after dinner.
“Ramadan has a special significance in our lives for one extremely important reason,” he said. “This is the month in which the final message of Almighty God was revealed. So, the night on which the Holy Quran was revealed became a night of honor.”
He went on to say, “Ramadan enables us to reconnect with this message, sent down from heaven to earth . . . . During this holy month, we are expected to reassess our entire situation. We reassess our humanity, and we reassess our humility, being humble with everyone.”
“In Ramadan, we also reassess our ethics and morality,” Imam Bashar said, “because when a nation loses its moral compass, it is destined to fail. That is why the Holy Quran reminds us that we should watch our tongues: No cursing, no gossiping, no backbiting, and no insulting others, especially when one is fasting.”
“The last thing that I would like to talk about is spirituality,” he said, “the kind of spirituality that counts when you are sitting one-to-one with the Creator of the heavens and the earth.”
“This includes preparing oneself before we move to the next life,” Imam Bashar suggested, “by praying, meditating, and reflecting on one’s relationship with the Almighty.” He concluded, “Be good to your neighbors, be good to your friends, be good to your fellow citizens, and be a good human on the surface of the earth. Ramadan Mubarak!”
In his concluding remarks, NUSACC’s David Hamod shared stories from the Arab world that revolve around compassion, hospitality, and wisdom – three attributes prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa, yet ones that are rarely seen on U.S. nightly news. “Many Americans have never been to the MENA region,” he said, “but there are many positive and deeply-rooted traditions in that part of the world.”
He continued, “America is a young country, and it’s worth reminding ourselves that the Arab world is composed of ancient cultures that have survived and thrived for millennia.”
“There are times when we, as Americans, think we have all the answers,” Hamod concluded. “At times like those, it behooves us to listen to the voices of the region, who have wisdom borne of long experience.”
Compiled by Arab America