So this happened Thursday, and it’s one more reason — call it the 100,000,001st (but who’s counting?) — reason why I love Illinois.

At sundown on the floor of the state House of Representatives, two Chicago-area freshman legislators rose to points of personal privilege to welcome the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and invite their colleagues to an iftar buffet, as the meal that breaks a Muslim’s daily fast is known. Their remarks were recorded in the above video, and in the Capitol Fax state government and politics newsletter.

“For the first time, the Illinois House has two Muslim freshmen,” said Rich Miller, the newsletter’s editor and publisher. “The House paused at sunset so the two members, Reps. Abdelnasser Rashid and Nabeela Syed, could speak. It’s definitely worth a look.”

“It’s a month of devotion, of reflection and growth.” said Rep. Rashid, D-Berwyn, who invited members to eat an iftar buffet set out in the Speaker’s conference room and both the Democratic and Republican break rooms. It was catered by House Speaker Chris Welch, D-Chicago.

Joining Rashid in speaking on the House floor was Rep. Syed, D-Palatine, whose speech Miller of CapFax said “was particularly touching.” It would be impossible not to concur, as she said:

I just wanted to add on that it is so cool to be here, to have the privilege to be on the House floor observing my fast. And even cooler is to have such kind and understanding colleagues who have checked in on me throughout the day, who have asked me questions about this important month, my favorite month of the year. And I’m just so, so grateful to live in a state that is so inclusive and so welcoming to religious minorities, to racial minorities, to women. So, thank you to my fellow legislators for making this state as inclusive as it is. And Ramadan Mubarak. Thank you.

Ramadan Mubarak is the Arabic for “blessed Ramadan.” It is a common greeting during the holy month. After her remarks the House, which was facing the deadline to pass bills and send them over to the Senate, recessed briefly for iftar before getting back to work.

One of the finest things about Capitol Fax is the comments section. It’s closely moderated — “This is not Facebook,” warns Miller — and commenters, many of whom are directly involved in state government and lobbying, typically use screen names so they can comment more freely. The first three comments out of the box were:

  • – Cubs in ’16 – Friday, Mar 24, 23 @ 10:16 am: Very cool. Diversity is a good thing. It helps expand our experiences beyond the bubble we live in.
  • – Michelle Flaherty – Friday, Mar 24, 23 @ 10:20 am: One of the greatest things about the legislative session is all the different people and ideas that it brings together in one place. If you open your heart and mind just a bit, you will learn a lot and be a become a better person.
  • – Paddyrollingstone – Friday, Mar 24, 23 @ 10:20 am: Really really cool. This is a great country.

“I’m glad this was done,” said the fourth commenter, Demoralized, at 10:21. “Other state legislatures aren’t so inviting.” According to a story he linked by WFAA-TV of Dallas, Texas state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a Republican who represents a district between Dallas and Fort Worth, made headlines by opposing a resolution celebrating Ramadan. After the vote was taken, he issued this statement, which speaks for itself:

“Today, I voted against a resolution made in celebration of Ramadan on the House Floor. As a combat veteran, I served beside many local translators who were Muslims and good people. I can also attest that Ramadan was routinely the most violent period during every deployment,” Tinderholt said.

“Texas and America were founded on Christian principles and my faith as a Christian prevents me from celebrating Ramadan. I want to commend [Texas Lt. Gov.] Dan Patrick for choosing not to join the House in this celebration,” the state representative added in his statement.

Tinderholt’s spleen shouldn’t be taken as typical, though. WFAA noted that his district abuts Democratic state Rep. Salman Bhojani’s. Bhojani is “one of the first two Muslim members ever elected to the Texas House,” and he’s sponsoring bipartisan legislation “expanding the number of optional state holidays to include holy days from more faiths.” As for the Ramadan resolution (HR 532), it “was adopted […] by a non-record vote,” according to Texas’ chief clerk of the House. This usually means a voice vote so lopsided that no one requests a roll call.

Links and Citations

Marium Ali, “Ramadan Mubarak: Hear greetings in different languages,” AlJazeera, March 22, 2023

Alex Cruz, “North Texas state representative votes against celebration of Ramadan on House floor,” WFAA, Dallas, March 22, 2023

Rich Miller, “House celebrates historic first,” Capitol Fax, March 24, 2023

[Published March 25, 2023]

6 thoughts on “‘Ramadan Mubarak’ — greeting the Muslim holy month on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives

  1. Should any religious holiday be observed and celebrated by the state? Christmas maybe as a holiday, but is Christmas a religious holiday to be observed and celebrated by the state or has it become a shopping occasion celebrated around the world?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting question! And one I haven’t given much thought to. I just checked Illinois’ state holidays, and Christmas is the only one we observe here — which is probably appropriate. (Leaving aside the whole question of whether it’s become a secular holiday, which gets tangled up with the debate over public religious displays on government property. I think the courts, at least some of them, have ruled some Christmas displays are communal and therefore secular.) I guess I’m with Roger Williams on that one — separation of church and state is to protect the church from politics, not the other way around — but I don’t have any particular problem with bringing in a halal buffet at our state House for the first night of Ramadan. You have to do it for everybody, though (at least everybody who has clout with the Speaker’s office). We set up Christmas trees in our Statehouse rotunda, for example, but that means we also have Satanic displays and when Seinfeld was still airing on TV, a Festivus pole in the rotunda!


      1. I wasn’t thinking the informal halal buffet in the state House for the first night of Ramadan qualified as official recognition. Individuals and groups recognizing others and their customs falls well short of official recognition and seems a civil act of kindness.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Agreed! I didn’t think you were — it was a nice gesture, and I’d put it in the same category as the resolutions congratulating a high school football team on its victory in a tournament. To the extent there’s a public policy issue here, it’s about diversity rather than endorsement of a particular religion. Nice way of welcoming the new members, too. I believe they’re the first Muslims elected to the legislature.


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