May 30, 2024

Secretary Antony J. Blinken At a Reception to Celebrate Eid Al-Fitr

Secretary Antony J. Blinken At a Reception to Celebrate Eid Al-Fitr

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Assalamu alaikum, everyone.  Eid Mubarak to you and to your families.  It’s wonderful to join you.  Alia, I’m tempted to say, “What she said,” drop the microphone, and leave.  (Laughter.)  Because who wants to follow this extraordinary woman.  Congratulations on the acceptance to Northeastern.  Congratulations on your decision to dedicate what are manifestly tremendous talents to the public health field.  We need you.  They need you.  The world needs you.  We’re so grateful to have you here with us now.

MS SALEEBAAN:  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  And to my friend and colleague, our remarkable ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.  He’s been a remarkable force for the United States around the world.  (Applause.)  Opening doors, opening minds, opening hearts, and making a huge difference.  And it’s always great to be with you, my friend.

To all of our distinguished guests, members of religious communities, civil society, the diplomatic community, thank you for joining us this afternoon and welcome to Blair House, a absolutely wonderful setting.  Blair House, which is, I think as most of you know, the President’s guesthouse, has played host to countless dignitaries over the past 80 years, including more than a hundred heads of state from predominantly Muslim countries.  Now we are thrilled to be opening its doors – actually quite literally opening its doors – (laughter) – to community leaders for the first Eid reception hosted here by someone in my position.  (Applause.)

So as you all know better than anyone, Eid is a time of spiritual renewal, an opportunity to reflect on a month of fasting and prayer, and to recommit – recommit to values at the heart of Islam: compassion, empathy, service, charity, gratitude, generosity.  Our nation is strengthened by the contributions of hundreds of Muslim Americans across our government, including at the State Department.  We know – I know profoundly – that our diversity – it’s a cliché, but it is so profoundly true: our diversity is our greatest strength in the world, and we’re putting it to use to serve American interests and values.  We are operating in an extraordinarily diverse world.  If we were to leave our own diversity on the sidelines, we’d be shortchanging ourselves, shortchanging our foreign policy, shortchanging the country.  We’re determined not to do that.

As we look around the world, we see examples of Muslims living out the values that we’re celebrating here today: showing compassion for the vulnerable, showing a commitment to justice, showing a commitment to the pursuit of peace.  When a devastating earthquake hit Türkiye and Syria just a couple of months ago in February, governments stepped up to build shelters, to dispatch search and rescue teams.  NGOs like the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement, Islamic Relief USA, provided lifesaving equipment, humanitarian assistance, food, water, clothing, medicine.  We saw people coming together in an hour of profound need for so many of our fellow human beings.

When the Taliban enacted restrictive bans on higher education for women, governments from across the Muslim world spoke up to condemn the Taliban’s decision, arguing that their actions were inhumane and contrary to Islamic beliefs.  Scholars of Islamic law weighed in to condemn the Taliban’s actions, too, noting that the Quran gives the right to education to women and men alike.  (Applause.)

And in Sudan, which has occupied our minds and focus recently, Arab countries as well as regional and international partners across Africa are providing aid and helping secure an immediate end to the conflict.the se

The United States is proud to support these efforts and others, and we will continue to work with our Muslim partners and allies to tackle the challenges of our time, the responsibilities that we all share.  That includes fighting for the rights of many people around the world who simply cannot freely or safely practice their faiths.  We’re standing up for those who face persecution, for peacefully worshiping, those who are vilified for being part of a religious minority, those who face real threats to their safety, for choosing not to observe a faith at all.

The team at the Office of International Religious Freedom, led by Ambassador Hussain, works with partner countries and civil society to advance religious freedom and drive progress on tackling pressing challenges – global health to climate change – and they’re doing that, Rashad is doing that, around the world.

For us, freedom of religion is a fundamental human right, one foundational to the creation of our country.  And our government is committed to supporting the right of every person – every person – to worship as they choose.  We’re equally committed to standing against discrimination and affirming every Muslim American’s place as a full member of American society.

The leaders in this room reflect the reality that Muslim Americans are a vital part of the fabric of this country.  With us this afternoon: doctors, scientists, writers, poets, leaders tackling virtually every vital issue that our society has to tackle and confront.

Mina Kalil and Faisal Mumtaz are two such leaders in this room.  Both moved from Afghanistan to the United States in 2021.  They quickly threw themselves into serving refugees in their new community here in northern Virginia.  They both work at the nonprofit Islamic Circle of North America Relief, where they’re helping provide essential social services to new refugees like health care, like transitional housing.  They’ve both been generous about sharing their experiences with incoming refugees in panels and one-on-one conversations, because they know that’s one of the best ways to help others.

Now, if Mina and Faisal are here – there you are.  (Applause.)

Simply put, you reflect so much of the spirit of Eid – the desire to serve, compassion for the newcomer, a commitment to building a community.  And you are, as we would say, paying it forward in a very profound way.

But each of you here tonight embodies these values.  You embody them with your words.  You embody them with your work.  The United States, the world, is immeasurably better off because of it.  Thank you.  Thank you for being here tonight, and everybody, Eid Mubarak to everyone.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

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