Rashid Chotani, Executive Director, MCC Medical Clinic
Galen Carey, Vice President, Government Relations, National Association of Evangeicals
Hamza Khan, Executive Director, The Pluralism Project
Yvette Moy, Director of Aging with Grace, Grace Presbyterian
Zainab Chaudary, Senior Media Associate, ReThink Media
On Saturday, June 17th , Rumi Forum in collaboration with the American Turkish Friendship Association, hosted a pre-dawn Ramadan breakfast meal for guests and friends of all faith backgrounds. The meal, known as suhoor, is eaten before dawn during the holy month of Ramadan and is intended to provide sustenance to those fasting during the day. This annual suhoor event is an opportunity to share the spirit of Ramadan with others and even though it was very early (3:00 am!), over 60 guests were welcomed to share in the celebration.
Several notable individuals spoke at the event and shared their perspectives on Ramadan and the values of interfaith dialogue and cultural exchange. First to speak was Rashid Totani, the director of MCC Medical Clinic. He spoke about his work at the clinic and their attempt to “take the greed out of medicine” by reaching out to undeserved and uninsured populations. The clinic offers a wide range of services and operates out of a mosque in Montgomery County but well over half of their patients are not Muslim and the clinic is an excellent example of the way that faith groups can come together to support one another and build an engaged community.
The next speaker, Galen Carey, is the Vice President of Government Relations at the National Association of Evangelicals and he spoke about how important it is to value our differences and respect the right of every person to live free of fear or persecution because of their beliefs. As a Christian, Carey expressed his deep appreciation for the welcoming interfaith community and discussed how crucial it is to recognize our differences and come together not despite them, but because of them.
Following these remarks, Hamza Khan, the Executive Director of the Pluralism Project, offered a reflection on what it means to live in a pluralistic society and how pluralism, or the embracing of different beliefs and practices, can contribute to a stronger civic and political environment. The Pluralism Project advocates for minority political candidates and supports them throughout their campaigns. Through this work, Khan hopes to see a more diverse and inclusive government and to stop “politics” from being seen as a dirty word.
The next speaker was Yvette Moy who is the Director of Aging With Grace, an initiative of Grace Presbyterian Church that cares for the spiritual needs of seniors. She spoke about Hagar, a biblical figure who was a maid to Sarah and gave birth to Abraham’s oldest son Ishmael. Hagar’s strength remains an important symbol in Abrahamic faiths and represents a set of shared values.
The final speaker was Zainab Choudary, a Senior Media Associate at ReThink Media. She spoke about her work, which focuses on highlighting the narratives of Muslim, Arab and South Asian Americans and other minorities. In the contemporary political and social landscape, Choudary described how difficult it is to combat negative media portrayals and maintain positive messaging. One of the most powerful strategies to combat this type of hate is community and individual activism. The support of non-Muslim allies is crucial, and Chaudary stressed that events like those held by Rumi Forum are the foundation for building the kinds of compassionate relationships that can turn the tides of hate and discrimination.