Members of Congress, along with more than 100 guests, helped celebrate Islamic Relief USA’s (IRUSA) 9th Annual Capitol Hill Ramadan Eid Reception, which took place on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, at the Rayburn building in Washington, D.C.
IRUSA was blessed to receive extensive Congressional support for the event. In addition to visits and remarks by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-13, Michigan), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-8, Illinois), Rep. Dan Kildee (D-5, Michigan), and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-4, Georgia), more than 30 lawmakers wrote letters of commendation for IRUSA. Booklets containing the letters were distributed to the guests. The event was coordinated by the Public Affairs Department, headed by Christina Tobias-Nahi and Jihad Saleh Williams.
Guests from a variety of public and private sectors feasted on a variety of finger foods while networking. The guests were from houses of worship, fellow non-governmental organizations, and staffers from Congressional offices.
“We all come here upon a common identity,” said Imam Talib Shareef of Masjid Muhammad. “We’re human first. God takes us back to that light.”
Shareef encouraged guests to go beyond interfaith dialogue by engaging in interfaith action.
Anwar Khan, president of Islamic Relief USA, marveled at the diversity of the crowd. He remarked,
“This is what America looks like, what the world looks like. We need to have empathy for people with need, not sympathy. Compassion is empathy in action.”
He recalled how on a recent trip, Pakistani villagers expressed gratitude to Islamic Relief for helping give them a voice.
Kildee expressed his gratitude to Islamic Relief, which helped deliver clean water to residents in Flint, Mich., which was the subject of national headlines after lead was discovered in its public water system.
“It says something to the people of Flint that other people care about them,” he said.
In the spirit of Ramadan, Kildee said he fasted one day in order to “stay in solidarity” with his Muslim constituents.
He added that it is unfortunate that Islam is frequently mischaracterized, especially on social media and blogs, in order to fulfill “a narrow agenda.”
If one wants to really understand the spirit of Islam, Kildee said Islamic Relief USA is an entity to be studied.
“You give honor to humanity, to Islam,” he said. “You tell the true story.”
Rep. Krishnamoorthi also praised IRUSA, saying “You’re living out your faith.”
He urged attendees to vote, get involved in public life, and run for elective office.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib praised IRUSA CEO Sharif Aly for his leadership and then thanked all of IRUSA’s some 100 attendees that packed the room.
“We celebrate all of you!”
She added that Islamic Relief USA help provide basic essentials to communities of need, as well as providing voice to underrepresented communities. Her district, which includes Detroit, was among the where there were beneficiaries.
“So much of what IRUSA does is connecting, connecting communities,” she told the crowd.
She the organization helped during a period when many of her constituents were experiencing water shut-offs. At one point, there were as many as 80,000 customers who lost access to water.
While grateful for IRUSA’s initiative, she said it was also a stark reminder how government often falls short in helping its most vulnerable citizens, due to excessive bureaucracy and other factors. She emotionally recounted an anecdote of how one of her constituents, a young mother, had been boiling water to give to her baby because she believed she had no choice
“That woman is never going to reach the government. You are…going door to door where no one else has.”
She hopes that Congress gains a greater sense of urgency in helping resolve such problems, adding that these are “humanitarian issues.”
Toward the conclusion of the event, IRUSA gave Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-18, Texas) an award for her efforts in disaster relief. Her district, which is comprised of Central Houston, was heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.