The history of the relationship between America and Muslim communities is deeper and more complex than the common perception might suggest. Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic using his own Quran kept in his personal library, and had the first known presidential Iftaar by breaking fast with the Tunisian Ambassador at sunset. President Dwight Eisenhower attended the dedication ceremony of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1957. President Bill Clinton issued the first presidential greeting for Ramadan, appointed the first Muslim American ambassador, M. Osman Siddique, to Fiji, and sent the first presidential Eid al-Adha greeting to Muslims. And one year after President George W. Bush placed the Holy Quran in the White House library in 2005, Representative Keith Ellison took the oath of office on the same Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson two hundred years before.
With his speech in Cairo, the President will lay another marker, addressing America’s relationship with the Muslims around the world in the heart of the Middle East. Whereas the past years and decades have deepened the rift in that relationship, the President will seek a new start by opening up a serious, honest dialogue to find areas of common interest where we agree, and new ways of communication where we do not. By continuing unprecedented outreach to Muslim communities, the President is strengthening national security and opening up new opprtunities to address some of the problems that have seemed so intractable over recent years.
The speech will be given at 1:10 in the afternoon in Cairo, 6:10 in the morning here in Washington, D.C. No matter where you are, watch it live on WhiteHouse.gov/live
. For those abroad, sign up to get text updates in Arabic, Urdu, English or Persian at America. gov.
UPDATE: In advance of the speech tomorrow morning, we thought we would share with you a few stories of Muslim Americans who are proudly serving their nation in the federal government. Check out the video: