The Interfaith Center of New York would like to report a happy ending to an event it helped orchestrate!
ICNY helped the Darwish sisters link up with contacts of ours at the White House leading to their invitation to the President’s Iftar dinner. The full story of their experience is below:
The following story is from a St. Francis college media release:
ST. FRANCIS STUDENT CELEBRATES IFTAR WITH PRESIDENT OBAMA
Sarah Darwish Also To Be Featured in CNN Documentary With Sister
When her cell phone caller ID only read five digits, St. Francis College sophomore Sarah
Darwish thought it was just a telemarketer or wrong number.
“This guy tells me he’s from the White House and he’d like my sister and me to come to dinner during Ramadan,” said Darwish who, like the rest of her family, is an American citizen. “Even after we got the invitation in the mail, we still didn’t know it was for real until we checked with the Interfaith Center of New York and found out they were going too.”
Sarah and her younger sister Dania were selected for this honor after Dania stumbled on a Landmarks Commission hearing on the status of the Muslim Community Center to be built in Lower Manhattan. Dania wears a headscarf and was singled out by an anger-filled woman during the testimony. Sarah, a swimmer on the St. Francis Division I Swim Team does not wear a scarf and considers herself the more westernized of the two. Their spirited defense and emotional exchanges were the core of several TV newscasts that night.
Paul Monteiro, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement was one of the people who saw those reports and reached out to the sisters on behalf of the White House. He invited them for Iftar, a traditional family dinner to celebrate the end of the daily fast during Ramadan. Less than a hundred congressmen, diplomats, members of the administration and community members were in attendance.
Before the dinner, the sisters were given a tour of Washington, D.C. “They sent a car to pick us up and as we were going through these security checkpoints we saw some of the secret service agents we’d met on our tour,” said Darwish. “Earlier they told us you had to arrange visits to the White House months in advance and we couldn’t go in. They didn’t believe us when we told them we’d be back for dinner, so it was funny seeing them again.”
Darwish, who is studying to become a lawyer and wants to practice international law, held her own during dinner conversation with Ambassadors from England, Russia and Albania, as members of the U.S. Treasury and Military.
“President Obama came and sat with us for a while, he said he really wants his daughters to learn how to swim but they don’t like the water,” said Darwish. “I invited them to one of our meets to show them how much fun it is and he said he might just come visit.”
President Obama also applauded Sarah’s goals telling her how important it is to have Muslim women involved in international law. He offered suggestions on earning an internship in Washington, D.C. at an embassy or law firm; an offer that several of the ambassadors at her table also made.
The story of the Darwish sisters will continue after their Iftar with the President. A producer at CNN was intrigued by the story of two Muslim sisters taking different cultural paths in the United States. He has been following them around their daily lives for a documentary to be released later this year on the cable news network.
Richard Relkin, Director of Media Relations
718-489-5214 / 646-369-8988