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Obama To Host Ramadan Dinner For Members Of Congress, Ambassadors

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The two members of Congress who practice Islam will attend President Obama's annual Ramadan dinner at the White House Wednesday night, along with a number of government officials, Muslim community leaders and other leaders of faith groups.

Muslim Reps. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) will both travel back to Washington from the August recess break to attend the event, their offices confirmed to The Huffington Post. Joining them will be Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who represents a district with a large Muslim community and has attended the dinner for the past two years. Another regular attendee, Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) will not be able to make it this year, his office confirmed.

The dinner is known as an "iftar," and it breaks the daylong fast Muslims observe from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. The tradition of hosting an iftar at the White House was begun by President Bill Clinton, and continued by George W. Bush. This will be Obama's third iftar as president.

The White House has yet to release a list of the attendees, but the dinner traditionally includes approximately 100 guests, including a large swath of Washington's diplomatic community -- mainly ambassadors from predominantly Muslim countries. In 2009 a number of Cabinet members attended, and last year the dinner expanded to include 20 members of Obama's administration, spanning various of agencies and departments.

The largest group of guests are leaders of faith-based communities -- most of them, but not all, Muslim. In 2009, the guest list included the chaplain of Georgetown University, Imam Yahya Hendi, Rabbi David Saperstein, who leads the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, and Wahid Hamid, a senior executive at PepsiCo and an old friend of the president's. Another friend of the president's from his freshman year at Occidental College, Oppenheimer Funds, Inc., executive Hasan Chandoo will attend, as he has for the last two years. Last year's dinner was also attended by Sara Najjar Wilson of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Imam Mohamed Hag Magid who leads the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, and Dr. Jane Ramsey, of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, among many others.

Ramadan follows a lunar calendar and has occurred in late August and September during the past two years, but this year it runs from August 1 to 30. The timing of Ramadan may affect the guest list at the White House Wednesday as Congress is on August recess and much of the diplomatic corps has returned home to celebrate the traditional August holiday and Ramadan in their native countries.

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