Their names do not appear on the American President’s “kill list”, the list of individual’s from exclusively Muslim or Muslim-majority countries singled out for extra-judicial assassination, and whose murder requires pre-approval by Barak Obama personally. Nor will their names be found on the US Government’s “no-fly” list or the FBI’s most wanted. These carefully selected Muslim names appeared on the invitation list for the White House Iftar Dinner on July 25, 2013. They included those you would normally expect such as American politicians and government officials and the ambassadors or representatives of Muslim-majority countries with regimes approved by the empire. But the guest list also included a handful of American Muslims described as “grassroots leaders” within the American Muslim community. They were invited to Obama’s iftar as ostensible representatives of an American Muslim community that doesn’t know them and has never heard of them. Although the ikhras awards committee was unable to determine the identities of these individuals, we are pleased to announce they are the collective winners of the Muntadhar Zaidi Ikhras Shoe of the Month Award for July, 2013.
A White House iftar is a carefully orchestrated media event at which the American regime presents itself as tolerant, welcoming of diversity, and hospitable to different ethnic and religious groups. Although a Muslim holiday is not the only religious or ethnic event staged at the White House throughout the year, it is especially important at a time when the primary victims of the empire are Muslims. Promoters of what has become an annual event repeatedly point to an 1805 dinner Thomas Jefferson hosted for a Tunisian diplomat as the first White House iftar. A dinner meeting between Jefferson and a Tunisian diplomat to discuss the Tripolitan War did indeed take place in 1805, but it was the Muslim envoy that requested a meal scheduled for earlier in the day be deferred till after sunset. For modern day White House propagandists this became the first “White House iftar.” The annual political charade actually started with Bill Clinton. It continued under George Bush. Jr when it received greater regime media coverage due to its increased propaganda value after the declaration of the “war on terror.” This year Obama hosted his fifth iftar.
As the President’s iftar dinner guests lined up to go through White House security the last thing on their minds were trivial matters such as the 1.7 million people in Gaza enduring their 7th Ramadan under a suffocating land, air, and sea blockade with the full support of the Obama administration. Extra-judicial assassinations using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, that have murdered thousands of innocent Muslim civilians across the Middle East and North Africa were also not in our dinner guests’ thoughts this evening. Nor was Obama’s escalation of the war on Afghanistan or his complicity in the NATO war on Libya. In the excitement of the evening these establishment Muslims also forgot all about Obama’s groveling in front of AIPAC gatherings, his outrageous speech in occupied Jerusalem earlier this year, and his steadfast political, economic, and military support for the usurping Zionist entity. And an iftar evening at the White House is certainly not a time to be bothered by other minor annoyances such as Obama’s sweeping surveillance of Muslim-owned businesses and mosques or FBI violations of Muslim-American civil rights including religious profiling and undercover sting operations.
After going through security the Muslim guests took their assigned seats in the State Dining Room and waited to be served an elegant, specially prepared halal meal on the finest White House china. Their waiters were impeccably dressed and behaved, attentive, but not obtrusive, and well trained in etiquette and protocol. At about the same time the White House guests were settling in for their iftar with Obama another group of Muslims were being treated to a starkly different Presidential reception.
The dinner scene at the illegal Guantanamo Bay prison and torture center stood in sharp contrast to the State Dining Room. The dress code and menu were quite different and the rules of etiquette and protocol relaxed. That evening Muslim hunger-strikers at “Gitmo”, as Wolf Blitzer and other government journalists like to call it, were being subjected to painful and humiliating nasogastric feedings. Nasogastric feedings is the seemingly innocuous medical term used by US Army torturers for forcefully shackling hunger-strikers into a chair and feeding them through a tube shoved into their nose. For some of these Obama “dinner guests” it was their 12th Ramadan since being kidnapped by the US government and held without trial.
No self-respecting person of any religious, ethnic, or national background with a basic moral foundation and political-social awareness would turn a blind eye to Obama’s crimes in exchange for the perceived petty prestige of attending a dinner at the White House. Imagine if any of these invitees, for example, had boycotted the event and then wrote an open letter explaining why he or she declined the invitation. Rather than participating as props in a political theatrical presentation, such a simple and principled act of protest could have highlighted specifically Muslims grievances and contributed to beginning a serious discussion regarding American domestic and foreign policy and its impact on the lives and well-being of all Americans.
Those who attend these government-sponsored iftars often find themselves on the defensive and repeatedly offer the same stale arguments we’ve grown accustomed to hearing from establishment Muslims. Their rationalizations range from clichés about the virtues and effectiveness of participating in the American democratic process to outright outlandish claims about combating Islamophobia, defending civil rights, and ending American imperialism and militarism abroad, quite an ambitious agenda for one meal. Perhaps they might consider liberating Palestine over dessert.
If the standard by which we measure the effectiveness and success of engaging the Washington political establishment is its impact on US governmental policies, both domestic and foreign, then we have to conclude its been a complete failure. But even if we were to ignore the decades of proven failure of this model of political activism and entertain the ridiculous notion that such engagement may eventually have an impact, wouldn’t a Ramadan iftar at the White House be the most inappropriate time and place for a Muslim to “participate in the democratic process” or “engage the political establishment?” American regime officials themselves present this event as essentially non-political.
The Ramadan fast is one of Islam’s five main pillars. It is during this month that the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. It is a month of prayer, charity, and volunteerism, a month when family and friends gather and rejoice, and an opportunity for spiritual renewal. It is not a month to dine at the White House while ignoring the crimes of the empire in order to derive some personal satisfaction from being accepted within the American mainstream. That such antics are shrouded in a Muslim religious holiday makes it all the more obscene, and politics aside, it also reveals the participants’ complete lack of any personal ethical considerations.
So on behalf of the American Muslim community the ikhras editors congratulate Obama’s unknown White House iftar guests, and call on them to come forward, identify themselves, and claim their July 2013 Ikhras Shoe Of The Month Award.
Every month Ikhras awards the Muntadhar Zaidi “Shoe of the month” to the House Arab or Muslim individual or organization whose behavior that month best exemplifies the behavior of what Malcolm X described, in the language of his own time, as the “house negro” (see video). The award is named in honor of the brave Iraqi journalist Muntadhar Zaidi who threw his shoes at the war criminal George W. Bush at a time House Arabs and Muslims were dining with him at the White House and inviting him to their mosques. Arab dictators and puppets of the empire are also qualified to enter the shoe of the month competition based on their own subservience to U.S.-led global imperialism. Contest guidelines include the “James Zogby Rule” which prohibits any one individual or organization from winning the award more than 3 times a year.