Delegate Mark Keam - Virginia's 35th House District

Delegate Keam Participates in Interfaith Meeting


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ADAMS Hosts Interfaith Iftar

Muslim society shares Ramadan meal

By Alex McVeigh, Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Herndon hosted an interfaith iftar Aug. 29, welcoming leaders from all faiths to celebrate with them. With a message of tolerance and education, elected officials, as well as leaders of the faith community gathered to dine for a Sunday evening meal.

An iftar is the evening meal in which Muslims break their dawn-to-dusk fast during the holy month of Ramadan. The dinner began with a prayer from seven major faiths, read by Boy Scouts and other children from local youth organizations.

Farooq Syed, president of ADAMS, began by telling the several dozen gathered about the interfaith tradition that runs strong in this area. Local churches and synagogues have space where Muslims can conduct their daily prayers, and the ADAMS center has hosted seder dinners.

"This is all possible because of the support and favors of our friends of different faiths," Syed said.

Virginia Delegate Mark Keam (D-35), of Korean descent, spoke about the importance of the American tradition of religious freedom.

"America is about individuals who will not sit back and let others define us," he said. "Each of us has the opportunity to practice our faith, live our faith, or not have faith at all if we choose."

Photo by Alex McVeigh/The Connection
Virgnia Delegate Mark Keam (D-35) speaks about his experiences assimilating in America, and the importance of working beyond religious differences.

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THE KEYNOTE SPEAKER of the evening was Akbar Ahmed, current chair of Islamic Studies at American University, who has served as an advisor to Gen. David Petraeus, ambassador to the United Kingdom from Pakistan and he has authored many award-winning books.

"America is about individuals who will not sit back and let others define us," he said. "Each of us has the opportunity to practice our faith, live our faith, or not have faith at all if we choose."

His current project involved a journey around America, to more than 100 mosques in 75 cities, which included a documentary and a book.

"We must look to notions of all the great faiths, they all talk of charity and compassion," Ahmed said. "We need more understanding of issues, it's not just saying ‘these are racists, these are bigots,' we need to hear them, to listen to them. As scholars we must ask ‘Why? What has gone wrong?'"

The theme for the evening was unity, which includes interfaith efforts to help with disasters such as what is currently happening in Pakistan, as well as serving the local community.

Reverend Richard L. Killmer, a Presbyterian minister who serves as the executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which is made up of more than 220 religious organizations, spoke about the important work that gets done when those of different faiths work together.

"Interfaith work works, plain and simple," he said. "Working together is more powerful, more effective than any of us could ever be working alone."

It wasn't just faith leaders speaking. Sean Henry, assistant director in charge of the Washington FBI office, talked about the constitution, and how it has shaped his career.

"When I joined the FBI 23 years ago, I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States and its two most important tenets: freedom of speech and freedom of religion," he said. "Those tenets require understanding and tolerance and for people to be aware and respectful of their environment."

AT 7:46 P.M. the group broke their fast in the traditional way, by eating a fresh date. Then the group participated in the evening prayer, and many officials went to the prayer room to take part in the Muslim tradition.

After the prayer, a buffet-style dinner was served to all, and leaders from many different organizations dined together.

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