Source: Martin Marty Center
Iftar (the breaking of daily fasts during the Islamic month of Ramadan) in interfaith settings is an increasingly widespread phenomenon. This year there were dozens of interfaith Iftar celebrations throughout New York City, where I live, and perhaps hundreds nation wide. Inviting non-Muslims to break fast has become a primary way in which Islam explains itself to the American public and extends friendship to the community.
Ramadan began on September 24 this year, and the holy month saw numerous public Iftar events, including, for example, the Brooklyn Borough President's Iftar and the Turkish Cultural Society's Iftar, which took place at the Waldorf Astoria and was attended by judges, scholars, religious leaders, and New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Meanwhile, an Iftar at the Dawood Mosque in Brooklyn included among its guests local shop owners, community leaders, two rabbis, and the Rev. Daniel Meeter of Old First Reformed Church of Brooklyn. At the end of the meal -- which is always at the center of the program -- the Jewish guests, along with Rev. Meeter and an imam from Egypt's Al-Azar University, sat together on the floor to engage in a long discussion about politics and religion for the community to hear.
Other such examples abound. Union Theological Seminary and the Muslim Consultative Network, with a little help from the Interfaith Center of New York and the Columbia Muslim Students Association, hosted an Iftar at James Chapel, where Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer once preached. (Union removed the cross from the chapel so that Muslims could pray without facing it.) During dinner, there was public discussion on human rights, with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim speakers.