President of Rumi Forum, Emre Celik, welcomed friends, community leaders and guests to the inaugural Turkish Arab American Iftar dinner held in Fairfax on July 3rd, 2014. Speaking on behalf of the American Turkish Friendship Association (ATFA) and Rumi Forum, he extended his warm invite to friends in the Arab community. “The Rumi Forum, since its inception in 1999, has been bringing together communities of different backgrounds, particularly focusing on interfaith understanding and dialogue. But we wanted to broaden this beyond interfaith to include intercultural dialogue and include people of different culture and race backgrounds”, said President Celik. He hoped this event would be the first step among many to understanding and collaborating between the Arab and Turkish community. He also took this opportunity to inform the guests of the various engagements Rumi Forum was undertaking in the busy month of Ramadan, including the organization of iftar dinners and Sahur meals. Warmly inviting the friends and guests to these shared meals, he concluded that the Rumi Forum and ATFA “look forward to continuing the dialogue” with their friends in the Arab community. The speakers at this friendship dinner included community leaders Azizah al Hibri and Muna Zahr.
Hibri gave a powerful speech urging her fellow community members to use the
blessed spiritual month of Ramadan as a time to reflect critically and
introspect deeply on the conditions of Islam and the meaning and significance
of diversity and community. To begin the process of reflection, she picked two
ayahs (verses) from the Quran: “Oh humankind, indeed we have created you
from male and female and made you into people and tribes that you may know one
another. Indeed the most noble of you in the sight of God is the one who is
most righteous amongst you.” This verse is addressed not only to Muslims
but also to everybody. God made the divine choice to create diversity so that
we need to get to know each other. Diversity exists because God wanted us to
communicate across cultures and religions and get to know each other better.
Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and human beings need to enjoy this
diversity. But is that really happening in our world?
Muna Zahr also talked about importance of friendship and dialogue while drawing the attention of audience to significance of fasting.