This American-Muslim went to White House Eid reception and took a lot of selfies

'Solving the issues facing American Muslims one cheesy smile at a time'

News Desk July 26, 2016

This year, Obama broke from the tradition of hosting the annual Iftar dinner to instead, celebrate Eidul Fitr with American Muslims at the White House.

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Hundreds of Muslims were invited to the reception, including Ahmed Ali Akbar, who documented the event with countless selfies and in his words, "Solving the issues facing American Muslims one cheesy smile at a time."

Initially, Akbar considered not attending the event. He revealed, "I have never been too involved in politics — I am terrified of Republican fear-mongering tactics, but I don’t quite trust the Democrats either. In 2014, I followed the boycott of the White House Iftar pretty closely."

"I was disturbed by the White House’s complicity and/or silence on Guantanamo, NSA spying on Muslim American leaders, drone strikes, Israeli attacks in Gaza, and more. Like the boycotters in 2014, I was worried that going to this event might seem like an endorsement of military action throughout the Muslim world," he added.

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However, his dad urged him to be neutral and convinced him to attend the event.

And so it began...

He was relieved to see the long queue outside The White House even after he was an hour late.

"The first thing I was greeted with, besides the usual White House stuff, was Thomas Jefferson’s personal Holy Quran."

The hallway leading to the main reception was filled with photos of Obama's various outreach efforts to Muslims in the US and abroad.

"After this, there was something completely unexpected: a live band, playing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan covers."

He even bumped into old college friends:

The food served to the guests was from around the Muslim world.

There were grape leaves…

...hummus and baba…

biryani (with no meat???)….

…Maghrebi chicken and lamb…

He was obviously confused about why the gulab jamans remained untouched.

He found a glass of red coloured liquid and desperately hoped it was the classic Pakistani drink, Rooh Afzah. It was not.


And so, he settled for a classic cup of black tea with milk in some fancy White House china.

He then walked into the room where Obama was set to speak, which  was totally packed and very sweaty.

A few introductory speakers took the stage, including Zaki Barzinji, the White House liaison to Muslim Americans and one of the organisers of the event, as well as a few young Muslim American women who read the Holy Quran and letters they had written to President Obama.

Then Obama made a speech praising Ms Marvel, the comic book character, for showcasing Muslim characters outside of the security narrative…

…and shared the story of Heba and Rahaf Alrahawan, two Syrian refugees who moved to Brooklyn four months ago.

Ahmed also shared the tense moment when an audience member interjected “Syria!” while Obama was listing locations afflicted by violence this Ramazan.

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In response to this, Obama said, "And Syria — I was getting to Syria, but — well, look, I mean, the brutal images and suffering that are taking place there are heartbreaking. And so the message has to be sent that we will stand with our friends and our allies around the world, including Muslim communities; that we will engage with those who want peace; that we will go after those who will harm innocents; that we will encourage dialogue not just between faiths, but oftentimes within the Muslim faith itself, which has driven violence in some parts of the world."

"And in the face of terrorism, we will prevail. But we will prevail by working together, not driving each other apart," Obama concluded.

Regarding the audience member's interruption to the speech, Ahmed shared, "I understood it as a reference to the over 70 civilians killed by US airstrikes in Manbij, which I had hoped the President would address."

Although Ahmed did not get the opportunity to speak with Obama, he took a cheesy picture at his podium and left.

"Regardless of my complicated feelings towards the event, it was great seeing so many Muslim leaders who have, in their own way, tried to change the world. But it was also bittersweet, given the current tense political climate around immigration and American Muslims," said Ahmed.

This article originally appeared on BuzzFeed.


Milind | 7 years ago | Reply "I am terrified of Republican fear-mongering tactics, but I don’t quite trust the Democrats either" Huh... I thought its the other way round.... Both Republicans and Democrats don't seem to trust Muslims.
Parvez | 7 years ago | Reply We certainly have a long, long way to go ......
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