Photo courtesy of Gov. Tony Evers
Gov. Tony Evers and First Lady Kathy Evers welcomed Muslim leaders from across Wisconsin to the Executive Residence to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr. (Front, left-right) Masood Akhtar, Janan Najeeb, Alder Nasra Wehelie, Tahseen Hussaini, Dr. Iftekhar Khan, Gov. Tony Evers, Sheikh Alhagie Jallow, Imam Mohamed Abdelazim and Will Perry; (Back, left-right) Abubakr Khan, Syed Abbas, Mamadou Coulibaly, Hasan Sheikh Abdali, Dr. Khalid Siddiqui, Ibrahim Saeed and Rep. Samba Baldeh.
“Muslim Americans and Wisconsin’s Muslim community are a vital part of the fabric of our state and country, and it’s important that we take opportunities to come together and embrace how diversity and different cultural traditions make our state a stronger, more vibrant place to live—especially when we continue to see bigotry, hatred and harmful rhetoric in the world around us,” said Gov. Tony Evers Wednesday in a statement to the Wisconsin Muslim Journal.
Evers hosted the first Eid celebration April 23 ever to be held at the Wisconsin Executive Residence. Close to 200 invited guests attended: imams and other representatives of mosques and Islamic centers from across the state, Muslim community leaders and elected and former elected officials, including State Rep. Samba Baldeh, representative of the 48th Assembly District in Madison, and the first and only Muslim to be elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly.
“It’s especially important for me as governor to support the Muslim community and every individual who calls Wisconsin home,” Evers said. “It was a privilege to celebrate Eid with Muslim Wisconsinites at the Executive Residence as we continue working to make our state a more welcoming, just and equitable place for all.”
Since his first year in office, Evers has celebrated Muslim holidays with Wisconsin’s Muslims, information provided by the Office of the Governor confirmed. He joined the Islamic Society of Milwaukee for an afternoon prayer service during Ramadan in May 2019. And in May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Evers and First Lady Kathy Evers hosted a virtual iftar ceremony during Ramadan, just a few days before Eid-al-Fitr.
Prior to his election, Evers attended an Eid celebration with Madison’s Muslim community in 2018, hosted by former Gov. Jim Doyle at the Lussier Family Heritage Center in Madison. (The governor’s staff was unable to confirm any Eid celebration was hosted by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration.)
(Left-right) Janan Najeeb, Sausan Naji, Tahseen Hussaini, Sheila Badwan and Heather Gilvary-Hamad.
Gov. Evers celebrates Eid with Muslim leaders
Representatives of mosques and Islamic centers from across the state received a certificate of recognition of Ramadan and the Eid, signed by Evers. They were Sheikh Alhagie Jallow of the Madinah Community Center in Madison; Ibrahim Saeed of the Islamic Center of Madison; Dr. Iftekhar Khan, president of the Council of Wisconsin Islamic Centers and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Center of Milwaukee; Dr. Khalid Siddiqui of the Muslim Association of Greater Rockford; Imam Mohamed Abdelazim of the Islamic Center of Wisconsin in Appleton; Mamadou Coulibaly of the Fox Valley Islamic Society in Neenah; Hasan Sheikh Abdali of the Islamic Society of Wisconsin in Green Bay; Abubakr Khan of Masjid Al-Huda; Will Perry of the Milwaukee Islamic Dawah Center; and Tahseen Hussaini of ISM-Brookfield.
In addition to those representing various Muslim communities, other Muslim leaders were in attendance, including Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition president Janan Najeeb, State Rep. Samba Baldeh, founder of We Are Many—United Against Hate Masood Akhtar and Alder Nasra Wehelie, representing District 7 on Madison’s Common Council.
Akhtar served as a volunteer advisor to Evers in planning the Eid event and advising on details, like planning the program, establishing a prayer room to be available as people would be coming from around the state and would be at the event during a prayer time, and identifying the list of invitees, which totaled 185, he said.
Wisconsin Assembly Rep. Baldeh spoke to the group, noting how the room full of Muslims from across the state is so diverse. “See the diversity! It’s all in here. That’s a great fact about us as Muslims,” he noted.
(Left-right) Sausan Naji and Janan Najeeb, from the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition Board of Directors.
Dr. Iftekhar Khan, president of the Council of Wisconsin Islamic Centers and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Center of Milwaukee, stepped up to the microphone and told Gov. Evers, “We are Wisconsinites. We are proud to be Wisconsinites. We are proud to be under your leadership … We love you, we love you, we love you.”
Akhtar then thanked Evers and the First Lady for hosting an event that included Wisconsin’s diverse Muslims, including refugees new to Wisconsin. (Wisconsin is now home to both Afghan refugees and Rohingya refugees, which are primarily Muslim). “They are holding this Eid celebration for all of us together,” he said. “For me personally, that is a great example of what America stands for … the governor is saying, ‘Come to my home.’ Let’s all work together as Wisconsinites.”
Evers hugged Khan, then moved to the podium. “Kathy and I, and the entire group of people who work here at the Executive Residence thank you for being here,” he said. “As governor, I’m committed to supporting the Muslim community.”
“When Tony Evers welcomed us, it felt literally that Wisconsin is our home and that we are important to our state,” Akhtar said.
Eid buffet at the Wisconsin Executive residence in Madison.
Gov. Tony Evers with Janan and Waleed Najeeb