In a step which could be seen as a sign of good faith and the start of stronger political relations between the Christian Democratic Party (ÖVP) and the Muslim community in Vienna, Christina Marek, the Viennese Chairwoman of the ÖVP, Univ. Prof. Dr. Andreas Khol, and former President of the Parliament, Dr. Werner Fasslabend, the president of the Political Academy of the ÖVP, invited representatives of the Muslim community in Vienna to a meal offered with occasion of the Iftar, the traditional fast breaking of Ramadan, at the Political Academy of the ÖVP in the 12 district of Vienna.
Yesterday at seven PM, the hosts of the event for the ÖVP, Christina Marek, Dr. Andreas Khol, Dr. Werner Fasslabend, Dr. Dieter Halper, Councilor Norbert Walter, Councilor Ing. Isabella Leeb, and others, stood at the entrance of the academy receiving their guests from the Islamic community with friendly smiles. The quests were received with warm hugs and handshakes in a display of good will; possibly also signaling that the coming years will bring the country a closer relationship between ÖVP and the resident Muslim community.
Everybody who witnessed the scene could have said that the human relation between these people of so different background had a special connotation of joy and mutual respect, that the differences in religion had been left aside and that what had brought all attendants together was their common interest in the future of Vienna. These are the laws of life and the rules of the three heavenly religions stemming from the Prophet Abraham, which are not far from each other despite outward appearances. Because this event is already the third time the ÖVP has invited representatives of the Muslim community with occasion of the Iftar, it should be seen as more than merely an invitation of the Christian Democratic Party (ÖVP) within the context of the coming communal elections in Vienna. Opinions to the contrary would only be expressed those who fish in troubled waters.
In all circumstances and in all institutions, communities and even in the same house and family, people conflict with each others because of differences in their opinions and views, and sometimes they say hard things that may not be satisfactory or comfortable for those around them. This is normal and acceptable to individuals, groups, parties, families, and religious groups in the same society and state. What is abnormal is negative interpretation of acts of good will, to interpret improvements in human relations in the wrong way in order to foment division and hatred between human beings.
The special appreciation shown by the representatives of the ÖVP to the Muslim community in Ramadan was a bold step forward and a blow in the face of those who have turned to attacking other religions as the only way to build a power base in the Viennese political arena. During of ÖVP event, the elite of Muslim community met the elite of the Austrians leadership on the same table with occasion of the end of the month of Ramadan which is celebrated with the Iftar or breaking of the fast. The Iftar meal is started by reciting the Islamic call to prayer in a calm voice. This call to prayer is the declaration that the fasting is over and that Muslims are again allowed to eat.
During the Iftar dinner hosted by the ÖVP, Christina Marek and Dr. Andreas Khol gave brief speeches in which they welcomed their guests and introduced the political leaders of the ÖVP. Dr. Werner Fasslabend, head of the Political Academy, also welcomed the guests; he spoke about Austrian culture and the history of the Political Academy, its goals, events and programs. He gave special thanks in English to Mr. Ehab Fawzi, the Egyptian Ambassador, who was present and joined the ÖVP politicians sitting at the same table with them. Dr. Anas al-Shakfeh, President of the Islamic Community in Austria, gave a brief speech in which he explained the human morals of Islam and the meaning of Ramadan. He concluded by thanking the ÖVP for the invitation.
Everybody had a good meal and a friendly discussion. Hopefully the next days and years will bring more joy, happiness, peace, success to everybody, and closer relationship between all mankind. (Click on the small photos to make them bigger).
As a woman, I wish to see in my life that Muslim women will represent their communities in politics of their countries, like for example Ms. Marek represents her party in Vienna.