Friday, June 26, 2015

Faran Tahir’s big moment at the White House


The actor was among the prominent Muslim-Americans invited for the annual Iftar party, hosted by the U.S. President

Outside the White House
It’s hard not to be impressed by Faran Tahir, what with his successful acting career which has seen him rub shoulders with the Hollywood elite and appear in blockbusters like Iron Man (2008) and Star Trek (2009). But if carving a niche in Hollywood hasn’t been a significant enough feat, then here’s something that will convince you of his awesomeness: the Pakistani-American actor just dined at the White House at an event hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama, and we couldn’t be more jealous proud.

Faran says it was “an honour” to attend the White House iftar dinner that was held on the 22nd of June. The tradition of hosting a yearly party for prominent Muslim residents of the United States during Ramadan is attributed to former First Lady Hillary Clinton, who held the first such annual gathering in 1996. So how many guests was Faran a part of? “There were less than a hundred or so people at the event,” the thespian tells Instep. And did someone accompany him to the dinner? “I would have loved to take [my] family [with me] but the invitation was strictly for invitees. I knew people there though so that was nice. Congressman André Carson – one of the first Muslim members of the U.S. Congress – was at my table.”

At the White House with Razi Hashmi
“We were greeted by being shown copies of the Holy Quran that Thomas Jefferson kept at The White House – that was extremely memorable,” Faran recalls. “What struck me most about The White House itself was that every corner is filled with history,” he reflects. “Some of the major decisions that have impacted the world were made within those walls.” It’s these very decisions, however, that have also made the iftar party somewhat controversial, with detractors highlighting the negative impact of the U.S. foreign policies on Muslims, and urging invitees to boycott the event. Faran, though, thinks the only way forward is through engaging in dialogue. “If we want to resolve issues, we need to create dialogue whenever we can rather than stop conversations,” he points out.

President Obama speaking at the White House iftar

President Obama spoke about denouncing religious prejudice in his remarks during the evening. “The conversation and major theme was about how to focus on the giving, generous, and principled nature of Muslims and how to encourage a counter narrative to what the news focuses on at present when discussing Muslims,” says the actor. “It was heartening to see that the President shares this belief deeply. President Obama said that Americans stand united in rejecting the targeting of any religious or ethnic group. He also expressed that no matter what one’s faith is, we are all one family.” While Faran didn’t get much one-on-one time with the President, he did have a brief exchange with the POTUS about “work[ing] with a singular vision and break[ing] down negative stereotypes of Muslims”.

The White House iftar menu
As for the iftar meal itself, the dining experience was as impressive as one would expect. Faran very graciously agreed to be our impromptu food critic and told us how the menu fared. “The salad was good, but the lamb was out of the world! It had the right balance of spices and overall great flavour; I was very pleased by it. The flourless chocolate cake was also delicious and not too heavy.” And was the amusingly tautological “chai tea” twice as good as your regular tea? “I had coffee,” he replies. “I only trust tea in the hands of Pakistanis!”

So now that he is a successful Hollywood actor, has a lovely family – he is happily married and is the proud father of two kids – and has even dined at the White House, is there any item still left unchecked on his bucket list? “Flying to Mars and starting a colony – that is the item still left unchecked!” he jests. With his luck, we won’t be shocked if a script for a sci-fi adventure set on Mars lands on his desk very soon!

- By Sameen Amer 

Instep Today, The News - 26th June, 2015 *

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