Local Tyler, TX resident meets the president
When Anwar Khalifa, then-president of the East Texas Islamic Society and owner of Pyramid Homes, received a call from someone claiming to be with the White House and asking for his personal information, he was sure it was a joke or scam. And when he got a thick, white envelope adorned with calligraphy, he was shocked to find the invitation extended over the
phone was real.
Khalifa attended the annual White House Iftar dinner hosted by former President George W. Bush on September 17, 2008. This is a dinner the president hosted for Muslims for 8 years. The event was initiated by Hillary Clinton in 1996 to observe the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan. Each year, the U.S. President and First Lady Host this dinner in honor of Ramadan.
With dignitaries from around the world, the Tyler businessman was off to Washington.
“I was expecting a meeting of a hundred business men – Muslim businessmen that were invited to the White House,” Khalifa said. “I didn’t understand this was the President’s Iftar dinner for all the ambassadors and congressman and heads of state. Very few citizens were
Khalifa didn’t anticipate there being so many high-profile people at the reception.”There were so many people that had so many titles,” Khalifa said. “I’m like ‘wow. What am I doing here?’”
They prayed, celebrating the end of Ramadan, then headed into the state dining room.”Table 9 was the table I was sitting at,” Khalifa said.
The table was a few feet away from the podium, and it just so happened to be the same table the President was seated at.Seizing the opportunity, Khalifa asked the President about the treatment of Muslims
around the world and in the Iraqi War.
“What are we doing there?” Khalifa asked. “It looks like at our hands, a lot of Muslim people have died in Iraq. He [the President] said, ‘look, Iraq had invaded two countries – Iran and Kuwait. They were saber-rattling other countries, and they claimed all these weapons. We
had to do something, and we got the UN behind us.’”
Khalifa said the President was gracious and cordial in answering all his questions.”When he said something I didn’t like, I told him, and I asked him about it. After I left, I thought if I would have done this in Egypt, which is my country of origin, if I had done this in
Egypt with the president of Egypt, I would have been thrown out, put in jail or executed.”
Anwar says the experience was unforgettable, and it is just a reminder of what a great country we live in.”This is amazing,” Khalifa said. “No other country in the world you can do that.”Anwar also left a letter from his 10-year-old daughter to the President with White House security. She received a handwritten response.