Our Annual Iftar

On July 10.2013, U.S. Ambassador  to Belgium Howard Gutman welcomed 150 teachers, community and religious leaders, diplomats, and friends to his home – and America’s home in Belgium – for an iftar, celebrating the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

In his speech – one of the last he will give in Belgium – Ambassador Gutman reminded us of the common threads that tie Americans and Belgians of any spiritual belief as members of the “brotherhood of man”.

This month, we are reminded that Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity. And Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America, long before it became part of Belgian society.

Indeed, the first Muslim Ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Thomas Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan—making it the first known iftar at the White House – more than 200 years ago.

Today, Islam is an integral thread in the American social fabric. Like so many other immigrants, generations of Muslims came to the U.S. to forge their futures. They helped build America, founding the first Islamic center in New York City in the 1890s. They built America’s first mosque on the prairies of North Dakota.  And what we believe is our oldest surviving mosque in America—still in use today—is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Born from this tradition of diversity in America is another tradition that we hold dearly in our Embassy: every year since 2004, the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium has hosted an iftar in his residence to break the fast with friends – old and new – in the Belgian Muslim community.

Photo: Mr. Shemsettin Ugurlu, head of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, offers Ambassador Gutman a Quran in gratitude for his efforts over the past 4 years to foster a friendship with the Muslim community.

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