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May 16, 2019 8:49 am

Despite Backlash, Texas Mayor to Attend Iftar Dinner With Rep. Ilhan Omar

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Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, Texas. Photo: LBJ Library via Flickr. – Despite outrage in the Jewish community, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who has made antisemitic remarks since being sworn in earlier this year, is scheduled to speak at an Iftar dinner—the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan—on Saturday in the Texas capital of Austin, whose mayor is slated as the guest of honor.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has called on Steve Adler, who is Jewish, to withdraw his participation from the event and for organizers to revoke Omar’s invitation.

“It’s not inclusive to have a keynote speaker at a dinner who has repeatedly attacked the Jewish faith and its adherents,” said Miller in a press release. “Mayor Adler should help Austin stay true to its roots and use this opportunity as a teaching moment for Muslims, Jews, Christians and those of other faiths to come and break bread together in the spirit of unity and love, not hate.”

Adler has confirmed that he will attend and has shown no signs of backtracking.

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“It is a gift that our community gathers at this City Wide Iftar,” he told The Austin-American Statesman. “The Iftar is a time for reflection, piety and growing closer to God. Every year, this event is a special opportunity for people of many faiths to grow together. As mayor, it is my privilege and responsibility to lean into such learning moments with my community—not to back away from them.”

The event is presented by Emgage USA, a non-profit group with a stated mission is to “educate, engage and empower Muslim American communities through educational events, voter initiatives and leadership development for the purpose of creating a community of equitable, knowledgeable and motivated citizens.”

Formerly called EmergeUSA, Emgage USA was co-founded by Florida lawyer Khurrim Wahid, previously with the anti-Israel Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation, an organization shut down by the US government in 2001 for providing material support to the terrorist organization Hamas.

Jay Rubin, a former CEO of Shalom Austin, the umbrella organization that includes groups such the Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Center, wrote to Adler in an email, which he shared in a public Facebook post: “The Steve Adler I know is a proud Jew, a friend of Israel and staunch opponent of hate from whatever the source toward whomever is the target. I applaud you for your role in helping to create and support the Citywide Iftar Dinner as a means of countering anti-Muslim bias, but I am appalled at the choice of keynote speaker by [Emgage], the sponsoring organization.”

Referencing Omar, Rubin wrote: “I understand the potential political ramifications, but I hold out hope for a ‘Sister Souljah moment’ on your part, in advance of the event, publicly disassociating from her past comments. The Steve Adler I know could do no less.”

“Some people will react angrily,” Rubin told JNS. “For me, it’s just sad. Very sad.”

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