Large majority in House of Representatives backs measure
Washington – A resolution recognizing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and expressing the "deepest respect to Muslims in the United States and throughout the world" was adopted in the U.S. House of Representatives October 2 by a vote of 376-0.
The resolution acknowledging the importance of Muslims in America, the first of its kind, was introduced by Texas Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson and co-sponsored by 30 legislators, including Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Ellison is the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress. (See related article.)
"It’s a sign of respect and recognition. It’s a very American thing to do. We are a nation of religious tolerance and religious inclusion," Ellison told USINFO.
"The basic idea is to demonstrate not only to the Muslim world but to the whole world that the U.S. Congress is a place where all faiths are respected, all faiths are recognized, where we embrace our diversity and where we believe that the promise of America is that you may seek the Divine as you see fit within your own judgment, and in your own tradition and in your own way," he said.
California’s Brad Sherman, who strongly supported the bill, said when presenting the resolution for discussion and a vote on the floor of the House: "The observance of Ramadan requires devotion to faith, community and family, truly universal values we all share." He said it is "appropriate and necessary" for Congress to recognize the observance to express "the deep respect we all feel for Muslims in the United States and around the world."
The author of the bill, Eddie Bernice Johnson, told the House, "The Muslim American community contributes to the vibrant growth of American society and culture. Muslim Americans play a significant role in our nation’s political process, economic growth, scientific development, free enterprise, religious tolerance, law enforcement and homeland security."
"American pluralistic ideals, democratic institutions and multiculturalism are expanded and strengthened by the contribution of Muslim American civic participation," she said, adding, "During this holy month, I’d like to say Ramadan Mubarak to all Muslims."
Ellison told legislators that as a Muslim observing Ramadan, "I can tell you it is a time of reflection, a time of renewal, and regeneration," adding, "It’s important to reassess your life, to contemplate your role in society and to benefit your neighbor."
He described a joint breakfast held in this spirit by his mosque and Temple Israel in Minneapolis on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur that drew 160 people. "We didn’t have enough chairs for everybody, but we had enough food because we shared it … showing again that we’re not too far apart."
New Jersey’s Bill Pascrell pointed out features Islam has in common with other faiths and said, "It should be imperative for all of us non-Muslims to learn about this faith, which too often has been misunderstood and mischaracterized."
"As the grandson of immigrants, I know true assimilation means preserving traditions while achieving success. I am in awe at how quickly the Muslim-American community has mastered both," Texas Representative Nick Lampson said, attributing their success to "shared values of hard work, discipline, community, family and culture."
The resolution reiterates support for American Muslims in the face of hate crimes, and maintains a strong stand against intolerance. "May Ramadan this year truly be a time when Muslims and people of all faiths embrace freedom and tolerance for all, and reject violence and extremism," said Texas Representative Ted Poe.
A hate crime is "a violation of law, it’s a violation of our culture and a violation of the American way of life," Ellison said later.
American Muslim reaction to the resolution is "overwhelmingly positive," according to Corey Saylor of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It’s a sign that Muslims in America are growing in their recognition as being part of the mainstream fabric of the United States."
"America is a pluralistic society, and it welcomes all different faiths, but it’s up to each of those different faiths to assert itself in the public sphere, and what this resolution does is shows that American Muslims are learning more and more how to assert themselves in the public sphere," he said.
Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council Salam Al-Marayati said, "It’s definitely a milestone for America and a positive reinforcement for the tradition of religious pluralism in our country," which has been a haven for diverse religious minorities. "It’s a sign of reassurance and a sign of inclusion and a sign of social harmony, and people are very pleased with the resolution for having accomplished these things."
The House resolution, "Recognizing Commencement of Ramadan and Commending Muslims for Their Faith," Ellison said, shows "solidarity between America and the Muslim community across the world."
For more stories related to Ramadan, see Celebrating Ramadan in America.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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