Over 2,000 Pack Mayor’s 25th Annual Ramadan Iftar

By Special Correspondent

HOUSTON: A mammoth gathering of over 2,000 persons on Sunday, March 17, at the Bayou City Center made it again the largest Iftar Dinner event in the US.

The Silver Jubilee of America’s largest Annual Houston Iftar Dinner has been organized for the past many years by the Muslim Sister Cities of Houston, namely Abu Dhabi, Baku, Basrah, Istanbul, and Karachi; along with 40 collaborating community organizations including the Ismaili Council for the Southwest US.

Event emcee attorney Lema Mousilli welcomed the guests and opened the occasion which began with the National Anthem sung by Shama Tajani. Iftar dinner chief coordinator for the past fourteen years, Muhammad Saeed Sheikh, warmly recognized many distinguished guests and expressed his gratitude to Chief Patron Syed Javaid Anwar and Tanweer Ahmed for being the major sponsors of the event. He paid tribute to the organizing committee, collaborating organizations and media. Faisal Momin, President of Ismaili Council then introduced newly elected Mayor John Whitmire.

Mayor Whitmire received a warm welcome from the community, but soon after he strode to the podium, protestorfrom both sides of the hall rushed forward, shouting, “you have blood on your hands” and brandishing their palms which were dabbed in red coloring. Organizers had been concerned that this might happen so extra Houston police detail security had been positioned. HPD Chief Troy Finner jumped up and motioned them to clear the protestors out.

Keeping his composure, Whitmire said he felt the pain of the people of Gaza, but that his priority was the affairs of Houston, and he did not involve himself in international affairs. He recalled how he first met Muslims when he was a student in college and his commitment to keep the Muslim community feel safe.

He was followed by prominent Arab American Community leader Ahmed Alyasin who spoke of the suffering of humanity around the world, especially in Gaza. Congressman Al Green called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for the recognition of Palestine as an independent state. (Later in the week, Green placed a full-page ad in the Houston Chronicle asking President Biden for billions in humanitarian aid for Palestine).

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee was unable to attend as she had to unexpectedly go to Washington, DC. Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a video message of Ramadan greetings.

In conclusion, a powerful message was delivered by Islamic scholar Kemal Civelek of the Islamic Institute highlighting the “Significance of Ramadan” as a month about inculcating self-control to achieve God consciousness.

He spoke about societies losing their moral compass and supplicated for the whole world as it is suffering difficulties on Muslims, especially in Gaza. Fatih Bayar closed the presentations with the aadhan or call to prayer with which people broke their fast and many rushed over to the dinner buffet tables on both sides of the hall.

Also in attendance were several City Council members including Edward Pollard; diplomats of several countries including Ambassador Khazar Ibrahim of Azerbaijan; and representatives of the Sister Cities of Houston including Houston President Susan Young; President of Abu Dhabi Sister City Jamal Bafagih, Orhan Osman of Houston Istanbul

Sister City Association. Community leaders from several nationalities from around the world attended the Iftar dinner.

Stage management was coordinated by Shah Haleem, Siraj Narsi and Donya ZItaksari. Dinner was catered by Fadi’s restaurant and Tempura restaurant and Sweet Factory.