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Iowa Public Radio's Culture and Diversity reports go in-depth to examine what it is like to be a minority in Iowa. The reports look at the issues, history, cultural traditions, challenges and future of each diverse group of people that are part of Iowa. Correspondent Rob Dillard and other IPR reporters tell the stories by talking with the leaders and having intimate discussions with some members of each group, and taking listeners to the places that exemplify these communities.Iowa Public Radio's Culture and Diversity reporting is funded in part by The Principal Financial Group Foundation and The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation.

Des Moines Teen Revives Ramadan Tradition Dropped by White House

fez zafar
American Iftar Dinner
Fez Zafar founded the American Iftar Dinner.

After the Trump administration broke a White House tradition last year of celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a Des Moines teen is trying to revive and expand the tradition.

Starting with the Clinton administration, the White House has hosted an annual iftar dinner to celebrate Ramadan. It continued through the Bush and Obama presidencies, but Donald Trump did not hold the event when he took office in 2017.

That prompted 16-year-old Roosevelt High School student Fez Zafar to start the American Iftar Dinner, which is set for June 7. He said it’s not a protest of the president’s decision to not host a White House iftar dinner.

“But instead we want to send this message beyond Washington DC. We want to send it really to the world,” Zafar said. “To show everyone that America is a nation that celebrates its diversity, and that what unites us is greater than what divides us.”

Politico reported Saturday Trump will host an iftar dinner at the White House this week. During his campaign, Trump had called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Zafar’s American Iftar Dinner will feature a main event in Des Moines with about 200 guests, including religious leaders, scholars and lawmakers. Groups in other parts of the state and country will also host dinners. Zafar said they are encouraged to invite a “diverse group of guests.”

“I thought that it would be a good opportunity to recreate the White House iftar dinner as a movement that will celebrate not just Muslims, but all Americans, no matter their religion, culture, race or political affiliation,” Zafar said.