The following speech by His Excellency Ambassador Husain Haqqani was delivered on the occasion of an ‘Interfaith Iftar Dinner’ hosted by the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington DC on 18 August 2011. The transcript is being posted here to encourage dialogue about the need to strengthen religious tolerance in our own nation.
Excellencies, Ambassadors, members of the diplomatic corps, officials of the U.S. government, members of clergy of different faiths, Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s my pleasure to welcome you all in the holy month of Ramadan to this interfaith iftar.
Ramadan, as you know, has a very special place in the annual calendar of Muslims. It’s the month about which our holy book, the Quran, says that it’s a month in which the revelation of the Quran started and it is the month in which Muslims have been given the gift of fasting and prayer, all of which is aimed at creating greater piety. But there is no piety if people do not respect each other’s religions and faiths. In recent years we have seen a lot of violence and a lot of anger in the name of Islam. But at the same time there are people who want to keep alive a tradition of Muslims breaking fasts with member of other faiths, of Muslims when we became divided into various denominations to actually respect each other’s denominations and break bread together. And at the Embassy of Pakistan, for the last three years that I have been Ambassador we have tried to keep this tradition alive.
Today’s interfaith iftar is particularly special for us because today we have here members of the Jewish Christian, Muslim, Ahmadi, Hindu, Buddhist and Sing Tao religions. And among Christians we have Catholics, we have Protestants, amongst Muslims we have all the various denominations as I said earlier and so it’s important for us, on this occasion, to dedicate this evening to the vision of a Pakistan in which sectarianism and bigotry will no longer be identified with Pakistan. A Pakistan in which nobody will be killed because of their faith, nobody will be persecuted because of their faith, nobody will be told what to call themselves in terms of faith, nobody will be marginalized because of their religion.
The President of Pakistan on the 11th of August, which was declared religious minorities day, pledged that the government will, in a phased manner, roll back all those laws, all those ordinances that have represented not the best in the Muslim tradition and certainly not the best in the Pakistani Muslim tradition but in some ways the worst of the anger and the denominational exclusivity that was brought into Pakistan during the period of dictatorship. Inclusiveness is how all faiths grow. Everybody who is here from different faiths, they will not lose their faith by sitting together and joining their Muslim brethren in the observance of the holy month of Ramadan. If anything, everybody will go back feeling more human, feeling more connected to human beings because after all what is the purpose of faith if it is not to bring human beings to a higher level of humanity.
So ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this occasion. Dinner will be served shortly. Try and make this an occasion on which you pray, according to your own faiths, for the prosperity of the United States of America, for the prosperity of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, for the prosperity of all the countries that are represented here, all the nations of the word but above all for the community to which each one of us belongs not withstanding what our nationality is, irrespective of our religions and that is the community of humanity. Thank you all and welcome again to the Embassy.