Have seen some explanatory/justifying FB statuses pop up from invitees about attending the upcoming White House Eid Reception.
To those individuals who feel they need to explain or justify their decision to attend: Don’t. You don’t have to and you shouldn’t feel obliged to. If you got invited and are excited about it, please attend with enthusiasm. We need our communities in these spaces. Attendance does not mean blind support of our country's policies. Attendance is not acquiescence. We are part of this country as much as any other faith community and this symbolic reception is part of our heritage as American Muslims. Know that there will be some who will criticize your decision to attend. Take in the constructive criticism but ignore the rest.
To those individuals who feel attendance at such an event would be morally or ethically compromising: Speak up. If there is a People’s Eid Reception or some sort of protest reception, as there has been in the past, please attend. If you want to stand outside the White House to protest, do it. We need our communities in these spaces. We are part of this country as much as any other faith community and protest and civil disobedience are part of our heritage as American Muslims. Know that there will be some who will criticize your decision to protest. Take in the constructive criticism but ignore the rest.
One big caveat: Whatever your perspective, please limit your critiques to the decisions made and the actions taken. Don’t let your criticism become about the individuals themselves as we've seen in the past. Nothing good or useful for our communities will come of that.
Note #1: I felt honored to attend the White House Ramadan dinner a few years ago. My experience was an extremely positive one. As I later explained in an op-ed about the event, I left the dinner with the same criticisms of U.S. policies I had going in, but I also left feeling empowered by the highest political office in the country to go home and work on those same issues. But that is not a uniform experience. By contrast, although I was not in attendance, I found the President’s remarks at the dinner 2 years ago to be deeply troubling and felt compelled as an American Muslim to speak up.
Note #2: At the end of the day, this whole debate smells more than a bit elitist. Ultimately, we’re spending a lot of time/community bandwidth fiercely debating something that will have very little to no impact on the day-to-day lives of most American Muslims. A debate about substantive issues that actually affect large swaths of our communities, say CVE, would be a far better use of our collective energy and attention.