During Ramadan, PAKPAC held its 2nd annual Bipartisan Congressional Iftar on the rooftop of our amazing office overlooking Capitol Hill.
Being bipartisan, we awarded four Congressional leaders – two from both sides of the aisle. Congressman Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) a senior member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees was one of those who was honored that special evening.
Now, if anyone has ever held a conference, they know that event planning can be quite challenging. It can demand the need to navigate many variables—especially when it’s political. Not only does one need to focus on the venue, time, and budget, one also deals with personalities. It is never easy to decide whom to invite and whom to recognize for their services.
When PAKPAC decided to honor Congressman Joe Wilson, it showed foresight and political prowess, like never seen before in the Pakistani-American community.
Earlier this year, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-California) announced that he will retire from Congress. Unlike Democrats, Republicans have rules that limit their committee chairmen terms.
Congressman Wilson was so impressed with the PAKPAC Iftar, that he extended an invitation to a special reception he hosted to support more junior Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
As a PAKPAC board member, I had the honor of attending his reception. Much to my surprise, not only were there many members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, but also the three top House Republicans, Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, also attended!
This was a unique opportunity of a lifetime – to be in a small room with the entire foreign policy leadership of the Republican Party!
After the conclusion of the reception, the Congressman insisted that I join him for dinner since my flight was not until 10PM.
This might have been the most memorable Iftar of my life. For over 90 minutes, I sat next to the future top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee discussing family, work, world affairs, Rotary clubs and everyday life in Pakistan. We even managed to discuss religion and politics, without rancor.
Now don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t necessarily a smooth conversation; when you have differences, it can be a challenge. But this unique encounter made me realize, that for the sake of our children, we must learn to go beyond our comfort zone. We must learn to engage with one another, no matter the differences.
Of course, many of us have “engaged” through interfaith dialogue at our local mosques. Mosques are important, but because we must follow the law, politics will have its limitations in a place of worship. This is why PACs are important. They allow us to amplify our political power through an institution. If we are to grow as a community, we must learn to become politically savvy. We must learn to appreciate the importance of political fundraising, political dialogue and political contacts. Joe Wilson has engaged in dialogue with not only leaders from around the globe, but also with us as members of PAKPAC.
Dr. Salman Malik – Londonderry, NH