WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden used his first Ramazan message on Tuesday to call for unity among the followers of all faiths while condemning those who continue to target Muslim Americans.

His predecessor Donald Trump had used his first Ramazan message in 2017 to urge Muslims to reject violent extremists within their ranks.

Noting that Muslims continued to face “bullying, bigotry, and hate crimes” in many places, President Biden said: “This prejudice and these attacks are wrong. They are unacceptable. And they must stop. No one in America should ever live in fear of expressing his or her faith.”

He promised that his administration “will work tirelessly to protect the rights and safety of all people”.

Condemns bullying and hate crimes against Muslims

Referring to the then terrorist attacks in Britain and Egypt, Mr Trump had said in 2017 that such acts were against the spirit of Ramazan and “only steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology”.

President Biden, however, focused on how Muslim Americans have enriched the United States since its founding. “They are as diverse and vibrant as the America they have helped build. Today, Muslims are leading in our efforts to fight Covid-19, playing a pioneering role in vaccine development and serving as frontline health care workers.”

Two Muslims of Turkish origin — Dr Ugur Sahin and his wife, Dr Özlem Türeci — were among the first to suggest using the messenger RNA technology to rapidly develop a vaccine for Covid-19. They also founded the BioNTech pharmaceutical company, which collaborated with Pfizer to make the Pfizer vaccine, the most widely used in the United States.

In May 2020, Mr Trump named a Muslim American, Moncef Mohamed Slaoui, to head “Operation Warp Speed”, a fast-track programme for finding a Covid-19 vaccine.

President Biden said Muslims in America were “creating jobs as entrepreneurs and business owners, risking their lives as first responders, teaching in our schools, serving as dedicated public servants across the nation, and playing a leading role in our ongoing struggle for racial equity and social justice”.

The Ramazan message, signed by First Lady Jill Biden as well, also remembered those Muslims who died during the pandemic. “As many of our fellow Americans begin fasting tomorrow, we are reminded of how difficult this year has been. In this pandemic, friends and loved ones cannot yet gather together in celebration and congregation, and far too many families will sit down for iftar with loved ones missing,” the first couple noted. “Yet, our Muslim communities begin the month of revelation with renewed hope,” they added.

“On my first day as President, I was proud to end the shameful Muslim travel ban, and I will continue to stand up for human rights everywhere, including for Uyghurs in China, Rohingya in Burma, and Muslim communities all over the world,” he said.

In another reference to those who died during the pandemic, Mr Biden said: “As we remember those who we have lost since last Ramazan, we are hopeful for brighter days ahead.”

He said that the White House Ramazan festivities would be held virtually this year, but he was looking forward to resuming the traditional White House Eid celebration “in person next year, inshAllah”.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2021

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