Washington — As the House’s day wound to a close Monday, a sumptuous feast was being laid out in the Capitol Visitor Centre.
Dates, spiced rice, baked pumpkin, salad and fruit — and cans of whipped cream for sundaes. It was all prepared for an iftar, the meal eaten each night after sunset to break fast during Ramadaan, Islam’s holiest month, and it was the first one hosted on Capitol Hill by three Muslim members of Congress.
For Reps. André Carson of Indiana, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, all Democrats, it was a historic moment: being able to break their fasts with colleagues and take pride in their faith.
“It is wonderful,” Omar said, “to serve together in one of the greatest, most powerful bodies in the world, to get this opportunity to convene with you all to celebrate and share a tradition.”
The event was sponsored along with Muslim Advocates, a nonprofit legal and advocacy organisation, and was held midway through Ramadaan, which began May 5. During Ramadaan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 days.
Although Speaker Nancy Pelosi was unable to attend because of meetings that kept her late into the evening, other members of the House and Senate leadership — including Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. — took part in the ceremony.
Carson, Omar and Tlaib were also joined by a number of freshman and veteran colleagues, as well as activists from other faiths. (Carson said he did not see any Republicans in attendance Monday.)
It highlighted not only the diversity of the new Democratic House majority but also the enduring support for Omar and Tlaib, who have been celebrated as the first Muslim women elected to Congress, even as critics have attacked them for their political positions and for remarks some critics say are anti-Semitic.
“We wanted to bring a different lens that hasn’t been at the table,” Tlaib said. “And we’ve had to do it courageously, even under attack.”
Among the allusions to the enduring scrutiny of Omar and Tlaib, those present emphasised unity. They were here, several said, to support not only Muslims but also others facing increased threats and persecution around the world.
Khizr Khan, a Gold Star father who faced criticism from Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and who joined the lawmakers for the ceremony at the Capitol, said, “To come to the people’s house is a message of solidarity.”
At 8:18 p.m., the room fell silent. As the first plates of dates began to circulate, an imam’s voice rang out in prayer, signaling that another day of fasting was over.
The New York Times