Eid Al-Fitr Celebration
Remarks by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
The White House
January 21, 1999
Eid Mubarak! And welcome to the White House. This is the third time I have
had the pleasure and honor of hosting this Eid celebration, and I'm pleased
to see so many families and children from around our country who have joined
us here today.
We have also been joined by a number of distinguished and honorable visitors.
There are just a few that I'd like to acknowledge: Ambassador Ronald Newman,
the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Middle East; Hassan Nemazee, U.S. Ambassador
Designate to Argentina; and Robert Seiple, nominated as Ambassador At-Large
for International Religious Freedom [at the State Department].
It is indeed an honor for us to welcome you back. I know that over the past
two days you have been congregating at each other's homes, at mosques,
and at community centers celebrating the month of abstinence and fasting and
prayer and rejoicing together. So it is a special treat for me to have you here
and to know that this is an extraordinary time of gathering and recollection
I want to thank everyone who has worked on bringing this event together. We
have had a wonderful turnout in the past. We had more people this time, so we
are actually occupying two rooms here in the Old Executive Office Building.
Sharifa Alkhateeb of the North American Council for Muslim Women has been largely
responsible for working with the White House staff in bringing us here. As many
of you may know, Sharifa was the chair of the Muslim Caucus in Beijing in 1995.
And she is also a great friend to me and to my staff for many, many occasions
when we call upon her for advice and counsel. And I am pleased that once again
she could be so helpful, both on her own behalf and on behalf of the Council
in helping us out here.
I know we are also looking forward to hearing from a young man who will share
his perspective and experiences as a young American Muslim. And Omar will have
more to say about that in a minute. I also want to welcome Professor Sayyid
Hossein Nasr, who will speak to us as well. Now there are many people who have
made today happen, but special thanks are due to Maureen Shea, Mona Mohib and
Huma Abedin for putting together this event.
I must say that I have seen very personally the impact of Ramadan because of
having Huma on my staff, and have had many occasions to talk with her about
the particular meaning of Ramadan. But I also feel so grateful that I am able
to travel both on my own and with my husband on behalf of the United States
to many parts of the world and speak with many different Muslims and learn more
It was just a few short weeks ago, as many of you know, that the President
and I traveled to Gaza. I was very pleased to be part of that historic visit,
the first by an American president to the Palestinian Authority.
We happened to be there only a few days before Ramadan began, and there was
a lot of anticipation and excitement in preparation. I had the opportunity to
visit one of the refugee camps -- the Beach Camp -- and I was able to see firsthand
many of the difficulties that the Palestinian people are encountering in everyday
But I also -- through my conversations, particularly with the women there --
I saw something else as well. I saw women working very hard to build their own
lives, to start businesses, to learn about their legal rights, to look for better
ways to educate their children, and to participate fully in the life of their
With Suma Arafat (phonetic), I also visited a facility that she has started
for children with various kinds of disabilities. And again I could see firsthand
work that was taking place to give every child an opportunity to live up to
the fullest of his or her God-given potential. Although the people that I saw
know that they have quite a road to walk together to build a very strong future
for themselves, I did feel -- and I believe that we could see in their faces
-- the courage and determination to do just that. And there is something very
special about the time that Ramadan provides to contemplate and meditate and
pray and think about what we could all do better on our own behalf, on behalf
of our families and our communities to build that better future.
From Turkey to Bosnia to Uzbekistan to Africa, I've met with families,
women and children, and talked about lives and futures. And I know how important
it is that we do more here in the United States to highlight the contributions
of Muslim Americans to our great efforts here in this country to prepare ourselves
for a future that is truly the best that we could offer to our children and
I was struck when I visited outside of Jerusalem a village that was started
by Arab Muslims, Jews and Christians. A village some of you have heard of, maybe
even visited -- Neve Shalom -- founded by people who wanted to do the hardest
work there is. Not making speeches about tolerance and diversity, but working
and living together, understanding and discovering what unites us as human beings
across all of what I would argue are often arbitrary lines that divide us.
I watched as three young children -- in a kindergarten class of that village
-- came forward together to celebrate their individual religious traditions.
One lighted a menorah, one a Christmas tree; one a Ramadan lantern. None felt
that they had to make any argument or case for following their own religious
traditions and beliefs. But each felt respected and validated for what they
believed and what their families taught them. I used to feel so strongly as
a young girl, and now I feel even more strongly that religion should not serve
as a weapon of war and division but as a bridge to peace. That children should
learn to respect their own traditions, but also understand the traditions of
Today, we celebrate Eid with special foods and exchanging of gifts, and by
honoring the remarkable contributions of Islam that have enabled millions and
millions of Muslims around the world to endure and thrive through the ages and
enrich us all.
We also honor the universal values that are embodied in Islam -- love of family
and community; mutual respect; the power of education; and the deepest yearning
of all: to live in peace. Values that can bring people of every faith and culture
together, strengthen us as people, and , I would argue, strengthen the United
States as a nation.
I have been told that a common Muslim prayer tells us: No struggle is
easy unless you make it easy for us. And only you, my Lord, can make a hardship
easy to overcome. With God's help, and with the kind of determination,
courage, and hope that is lived out in the lives of all of you and millions
of others around our country and throughout the world, I believe that we can
do more together to help build a more peaceful, prosperous, and hopeful future
in which all of God's children can live in peace and fulfill their God-given
May peace be with you, and may God grant you health and prosperity now and in
the years ahead.
Certainly one of the great reasons for any religious tradition is to bring
up our children in the way that we would want them to follow, to give them both
roots and wings, to enable them to understand where they came from but to equip
them to know and see where they are going. We have with us a young man, a senior
at Woodson High School, Omar Farou (phonetic), who will be able to talk with
us about a young person's experience of Ramadan. And I invite him now to
the podium. Come and join us please, Omar.