The Interfaith Iftar Dinner was held on the second floor of the State Capitol Building last week.
Nijim Dabbour, a young man who is a graduate of Deer Creek High School and the University of Oklahoma, served as master of ceremonies for the event, and he explained to the assembled guests that during the 30 days of Ramadan Muslims are required to abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours and that the Iftar dinner is the meal that they enjoy after the sun sets during the month.
Dabbour said that a visitor to the Capitol building is reminded by the portraits and paintings that are in place there that people of different races and religions played a role in the state’s development, and that Muslims are now part of the state, and are contributing to its development.
State Sen. Tom Ivestor told the guests that the people of Oklahoma are tolerant of people of different faiths, and that his constituents in Southwest Oklahoma are now welcoming Muslims and people of other faiths to that area.
The keynote speaker for the dinner was Oklahoma City University President Robert Henry, who said he was proud to share a holy occasion with fellow Oklahomans of the Muslim faith. The university president also pointed out that the “right to worship as we please is the most basic American right.” Henry quoted from the Koran the wording that requires Muslims to be just in their dealings with others and to be compassionate to the less fortunate, and said that those requirements are also part of Christianity and Judaism.
Oklahoma City Rabbi Abby Jacobson told the attendees of how fasting plays a role in Judaism and that Jews are required to fast on two different days during the year. On Yom Kippur Jews are required to abstain from eating as they ask God to forgive them for the sins that they committed during the past year. They are also supposed to fast on Tisha B’av, as they contemplate all of the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the centuries.
Imam Imad Enchassi of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City also addressed the gathering, and said that the Prophet Mohammed told his followers that if they look at those who have less than they do that they will be grateful to God for what he has given them. During Ramadan, Enchassi reported, Muslims feel compassion for those who are hungry because they lack funds to purchase food.
Father Sami Chaaya of the Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Norman also addressed the gathering, and spoke of how it is recorded in the gospels that Jesus fasted on occasion, and said that the early Christians were converts from Judaism, and that they brought the Jewish tradition of fasting with them when they became followers of Christ. Chaaya said that fasting brings people closer to God.
At 8:35 p.m. water and tea were distributed to the attendees, and they went to the buffet lines where servers offered them a variety of Middle Eastern and Indian foods and desserts.
WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.