NEWTOWN, Conn. — An Islamic leader from Newtown was the guest of honor of U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty at Thursday's 64th annual National Prayer Breakfast with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.
Newtown resident Eman Beshtawii is director of community services and outreach programs at the Al Hedaya Islamic Center.
The National Prayer Breakfast is held on the first Thursday of February each year, bringing together over 3,200 people of faith from all 50 U.S. states and over 140 countries.
“I first met Eman at an interfaith ceremony in December at a vigil honoring the victims of Sandy Hook,” said Esty. “Eman approached me to share the real fears and concerns she and her family face as Muslim-Americans. She and her family have experienced a disturbing increase in religiously and racially charged comments and actions sparked by fear and misinformation.
"I admire Eman’s religious and civic activism, and the positive impact she is making to address xenophobia and tragedy within her community. We need faith leaders like Eman Beshtawii.”
Beshtawii said she was privileged to be invited to the Prayer Breakfast.
"I accepted the invitation to highlight all of the good that has come to our Muslim community at the Hedaya Center," she said. "We have strived toward building bridges and relationships with the people of the community, region, and state we live in. We feel welcome and are proud to identify ourselves as Muslim Americans and citizens of this beautiful state of Connecticut.
"We encourage all Americans to get to know their local Muslim communities by connecting directly with them. Much of the fear and hate in the Islamophobia that Muslim American communities experience is a result of the absence of these relationships.”
Beshtawii lives in Newtown with her husband and four children. She is co-founder and director of community services of the Al Hedaya Islamic Center in Newtown, and is a member of the Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association. She is also co-founder of the Newtown "Peace Builder" initiative to engage the youth in the community.
Esty represents the 5th District, which includes much of northwestern Connecticut, including Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, Newtown and Sherman.
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