Food for the Soul, and the Stomach
by Deanna Othman
Honoring a tradition that has continued for over a decade, the Mosque Foundation, in conjunction with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) held its annual Community Iftar on Sept. 1st, 2009. The event focused on honoring the devotion to civic involvement, responsibility, and justice that bonds people of faith.
Hundreds of eager attendees flocked to the mosque before iftar time to hear an informative presentation by Sheikh Kifah Mustapha on the significance of Ramadan in the Islamic tradition. After witnessing the breaking of the fast and maghrib prayer, community members shuffled to Paradise Banquet to partake in a meal consisting of traditional Middle Eastern foods, which countless people cited as the highlight of their evening. “We don’t get to eat this food often, so we definitely enjoy it,” one woman commented.
Dr, Zaher Sahloul, President of the Mosque Foundation, and Chairman of CIOGC, underscored the pervasively inviting, congenial mood of the event. “Our guests enjoyed the warm atmosphere created by our volunteers and staff, and listened to stimulating speeches about charity and truth from Catholic and Muslim perspectives.” Though Cardinal Francis George, the first Chicago native to become Archbishop of Chicago, was supposed to be in attendance, an illness prevented him from joining the crowd that evening. His representative spoke on his behalf, emphasizing the steps the Archdiocese and Muslim communities have taken to connect their communities through works of love and charity.
The Mosque Foundation presented three awards, all focusing on the recipients’ outstanding devotion to community service. State Representative Mary Flowers, of the 31st district; Joshua Hoyt, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; and Khalil Demir, Director of the Zakat Foundation, all received awards honoring their dedication to the community at large. Brother Khalil’s vivacious acceptance speech, Mr. Hoyt’s light-hearted humor, and Mrs. Flowers’ humility all added to the personal, relaxed tone of the evening.
Award recipient, Mr. Hoyt, commented, “The interfaith Iftar Dinner of CIOGC and the Mosque Foundation this year was a beautiful testament to the Muslim community’s commitment to dialogue and action around the shared values of the world’s great universal religions to human dignity and justice. I was honored and moved to be presented with an award by Imam Sheikh Jamal at this wonderful celebration.”
As the evening came to a close, attendees mingled and discussed how they would take the connections they made between people of different communities, and faiths, even farther. “I am very proud of the great work the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago and Mosque Foundation are doing for the community. The Annual Iftar was successful in bringing together people from various faith backgrounds and informing them about Islam and the community,” said activist Ahlam Jbara. In forging ahead, all were reminded that when we cooperate with others collectively, we all serve our individual common interest—a better life, and better world, for ourselves and our children.