Sharib Haroon, an executive committee member of the Irving Islamic Center, quoted Henry Ford as an example of inclusion, kicking off the Islamic Center of Irving’s annual Outreach Ramadan Iftar/Dinner on Thursday, June 7.
“Coming together is the beginning,” Haroon said. “Keeping together is progress, and working together is success. That’s the reason we are here.”
Ford lived over 70 years ago, but his message still resonated as the Irving Islamic community welcomed city leaders, law enforcement officers, the fire department, as well as other religious and community leaders to the Islamic Center of Irving to celebrate Ramadan with a large feast.
Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad and is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam.
The Islamic Center of Irving’s director of outreach Imam, Nick Pelletier, says fasting is important to adhere to God’s commands, the most important of which is character.
“Fasting, we believe in Islam, is something that isn’t new, but is something that has been practiced by the Christians and Jews who came before us,” Imam Nick said. “The reality is that fasting is for the purpose of increasing our righteousness or our god consciousness or our connection to God.”
Mayor Rick Stopfer was among the many city leaders in attendance to celebrate the end of outreach dinner.
“We are so fortunate to have the diversity we have within the city of Irving,” Stopfer said. “It’s something we should celebrate. It should not be something that divides us.”
Stopfer joined guests including Police Chief Jeff Spivey, Fire Chief Victor Conley, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Elba Garcia.
Jenkins condemned political forces trying to separate the Irving community.
“It should not be controversial that we are one community,” Jenkins said. “We see these threats to try to separate our people for political gain and to try to make our neighbors into the enemy. That is an evil we must stand against just as we stand against other evils.”
Minister Russell Frantz of the Grapevine Church of Christ, and Rabbi Frank Joseph, who serves at Temple Beth Israel in Harlingen and Temple Beth El in Corsicana, also spoke on the importance of fasting and fellowship among community religious leaders.
“Fasting for the early church fathers was inexplicably tied to giving by opening themselves up to the presence of God,” Frantz said. “Fasting seems to bring us to union with an experience at the very heart of God.”
Imam Nick presented a handful of awards to organizations that typically do not receive the recognition they deserve serving the community, including the City of Irving, police department, fire department, Parkland Hospital, CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), and MLFA (Muslim Legal Fund of America).
“We’d like to recognize those organizations that oftentimes do thankless work,” Imam Nick said.
Imam Nick also recognized Irving ISD for work he characterized as at the foundation of establishing a sound society, and Irving Cares for making sure we take care of those who are less fortunate.
Harking back to Ford’s quote, Haroon said each of Irving’s religious and civic circles share the same values.
“We all believe in values like honesty, integrity, caring for the poor, the sick, the homeless, the elderly; the list goes on. These are all the values shared by all of us,” he said. “It is important at this point of time to remind ourselves about our shared values, as we are living in really challenging times where extremists from all sides seek to divide us by exploiting our differences.”