Joe Biden

Remarks at an Eid al-Fitr Reception

May 02, 2022

The President. Thank you, Doc. Thank you.

Mom, with your permission, you boys can come up on stage if you want.

Audience members. Aww!

The President. Come on. Don't worry, he's coming. [Laughter]

[At this point, some children joined the President on stage.]

What's your name? And what's your name? Great to see you. Okay, good.

Well, welcome to the White House, guys. [Laughter] Welcome to the White House. And Eid Mubarak.

Audience members. Eid Mubarak!

The President. I'm honored to welcome Representatives Tlaib and Carson. I think they're here. I see a hand going up back there. All right. And although she can't be here today, I also enjoyed seeing Representative Omar over the weekend.

And look, welcome to the members of the diplomatic corps and to the elected representatives and community leaders all across the country, the thinkers, and activists. And it's great to have you here in the White House, all working to make our Nation and our world stronger and more inclusive. I emphasize "inclusive."

And if you'll excuse a point of personal privilege, I want to—is Madinah Wilson-Anton here?

Delaware State Representative Madinah Wilson-Anton. Yes, I'm here. [Laughter]

The President. Welcome. It's good to see you. She represents the State of Delaware, by the way. And I want you to know she works at the University of Delaware, at the Biden Institute. So we call that "using a point of personal privilege." [Laughter] And there have not been many Senators from Delaware. It's a small State. As a matter of fact, there's never been one. [Laughter] And so I want to take advantage of it by making sure I introduce her.

Jill and I are so glad to host all of you on this joyous occasion. You know, we send our warmest greetings celebrating Eid all across the United States and, quite frankly, around the world.

One of the promises I made when I ran for office is that I was to restore this annual celebration, because it's important. It's important. Sadly—sadly, last year, because of the pandemic, we had to hold a virtual event. This year, thanks to the progress we've made fighting the pandemic, we can fully honor my promise.

And it's in no small part thanks to the courage and commitment of many Muslim frontline workers and first responders, many of them. Many. And to the brilliant Muslim scientists who helped pioneer the technology for COVID-19 vaccine—don't forget that either. Not only helping people here, but people around the world.

At the same time, we know that it's a bittersweet day for many—too many families. You know, even as we celebrate Eid and mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan, we also, in our hearts, have those families who lost a loved one to the pandemic.

And by the way, I was telling the doc: You know, there's a lot of similarities between all the three major religions here. But I want you to know you have a slight advantage in Ramadan. For Lent, I've got to go 40 days. [Laughter] Forty days with no sweets and no ice cream. [Laughter] And I did it. Forty. [Laughter] It's harder, guys. You know what I mean? [Laughter]

Anyway, throughout the past month, Muslims have fasted each day from dawn to dusk. And while—you know, while exercising the patience of discipline can be a solitary act, it also is something that strengthens community bonds. It helps communities stick together. Communities are—is essential—essential to the celebration of Ramadan and Eid.

You know, whether breaking your fast with friends or family, or joining neighbors in acts of volunteering, or gathering for nightly communal prayers special to the month of Ramadan, this is a time to reflect not just on oneself and one's faith, but on the entire community, a whole community.

You know, through their fast, Muslims demonstrate empathy for suffering of others, strengthening and renewing their resolve to give generously and to make the world a better place, better for all who suffer. And I mean that sincerely. I've witnessed it around the world.

This year, for the first time in decades, three Abrahamic faiths all celebrate their holy days at the same time. Think about that. The same time. That's a message, guys. [Laughter] No, I really mean that. I think—I really believe it. Ramadan. Passover. Easter. And each a time of celebration for the light that has triumphed over darkness and for death giving way to renewal of life.

You know, each of us remember the work that remains to be unfinished here on Earth—and there's a lot of it—to which God calls all his children. You know, that we should strive to show kindness and mercy, understanding to one another. And that we should do unto others as we wish to have done—do unto us. Sound familiar? Sound familiar in every language. It's similar.

Today we celebrate the incredible stories of the indispensable contributions of Muslims all across this great Nation. Muslim Americans, a diverse and vibrant part of the United States, making invaluable cultural and economic contributions to communities all across the Nation.

You know what I think it's about? I think you understand the sense of empathy. How can you move without empathy to understand? Teachers, counselors, mentors helping young people achieve their full potential.

By the way, I don't know which one of you guys is going to be President, but you know—[laughter]—if I were you, I'd be Secretary of State. [Laughter] Anyway, all kidding aside, look at these young men. They can be anything they want in this country, if we're smart. Anything. Anything at all.

And members of the military, first responders serving with such distinction, keeping us safe at home and abroad. Public servants across this country and across the administration who are leading the work to address the challenges of our time.

I've said it from the beginning that my administration—and I meant it, and I proved it—is going to look like America—look like America—really—with Muslim Americans serving at every level. And it does. Muslim Americans in my administration have key roles in tackling the climate crisis, rebuilding our economy, safeguarding our health, restoring our alliances, and so much more.

And I'm incredibly proud to have nominated the first Muslim American ever confirmed to the Federal bench. And I've appointed the first Muslim to serve as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.

And it's especially important because today, around the world, we're seeing so many Muslims being targeted with violence. No one—no one should discriminate against oppressed—or be oppressed for their religious beliefs. Nobody. Nobody.

So today we also remember all those who are not able to celebrate this holy day, including Muslim and—excuse me—and including Uyghurs and Rohingyas and all—all those who are facing famine, violence, conflict, and disease.

And we honor—we honor—the signs of hope and progress toward the world we want to see, including the cease-fire, which allowed the people in Yemen to honor Ramadan and celebrate Eid in peace for the first time in 6 years.

But at the same time, we have to acknowledge that an awful lot of work remains to be done abroad and here at home. Muslims make our Nation stronger every single day, even as they still face real challenges and threats in our society, including targeted violence and Islamophobia that exists. I mean, it's just astounding. And—well, I won't go into it. Anyway—[laughter]—I won't get—making our Nation more equitable, more inclusive for Muslim Americans is an essential part of the enduring work to form the more perfect Union. That's what we seek.

You know, we're the only nation in all the history of the world that's been organized not based on a religion, race, ethnicity, geography, but on an idea. Think about that. An idea. "We hold these truths to be self-evident," that all men and women are created equal "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness—et cetera.

We've never met that goal, but we've never walked away from it—except one brief moment—and we're back. And we're back and making—[applause]. No, I really mean it.

And the resilience of Muslim Americans enriching the fabric of this Nation is testament to Quran's teaching: We have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. The last part: So you may know one another.

Our differences should not be obstacles that divide us, but opportunities to learn from one another. You know, it was mentioned earlier—excuse the diversion here—but when I became chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee—I'm a—if you come to my home, in my library you'll see a lot of contemporary theology and comparative theology. And I'm just—been interested in it my whole career.

And I realized how little I knew about the details of Islam. I knew—I knew about it, but I didn't know the difference that existed. I didn't know what the hidden Imam—I mean, I—so I went out and I hired a full professor—a professor of Islamic studies who came to work with me. He thought he was only staying a year. Every Wednesday, he had lunch with me. And he said, "How much more do you need to know?" [Laughter]

But all kidding aside—I really mean it—I really mean it—it was a chance to seek out and build and celebrate a common community. So let's celebrate today as we move forward this year, holding this teaching in our heart.

I am so proud to serve this community as your President, and I'm humbled by the amazing accomplishments reflected in this room in front of me. And I'm grateful to have this opportunity to join together today to renew our common commitment to shared values.

Thank you. And God bless you, may God bless America, and may God protect our troops. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:22 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Talib M. Shareef, imam, the Nation's Mosque in Washington, DC, who introduced the President; Zahid N. Quraishi, judge, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey; and U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at an Eid al-Fitr Reception Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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