Fact Check

Irate for Dinner

Published Aug 24, 2015


FACT CHECK: Is Lansing, Michigan, hosting a Ramadan Unity Dinner on 11 September 2015?

Claim:   The City of Lansing, Michigan, is hosting a Ramadan Unity Dinner on 11 September 2015.


Example:    [Collected via e-mail, August 2015]

I was trying to search if this is a true statement: CITY PLANS RAMADAN CELEBRATION DINNER ON SEPTEMBER 11TH

I would have a very hard time believing that a celebration of Sharia would be accepted on the anniversary of such carnage due to this belief. My hope is that this rumor is just that and someone trying to create hate.

Can you please research?

Origins:    On 23 August 2015, the web site 100 Percent Fed Up published an article titled "OUTRAGEOUS! CITY PLANS RAMADAN CELEBRATION DINNER ON SEPTEMBER 11TH" that referenced the mayors of East Lansing and Lansing (Nathan Triplett and Virg Bernero, respectively) in Michigan, an area that hosts a sizable Muslim population:

Last year these two celebrated sharia, with taxpayer money, days before 9/11. This year, the emboldened Muslims orchestrating this effort have convinced these mayors that celebrating Ramadan — which ended in mid-July according to a U.S. sharia council — on the anniversary of the Muslim terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans would be a grand idea. Where are the citizens of Lansing?

On 24 August 2014, the web site Biz Pac Review published an article titled "Outrage spreads as cities plan Ramadan dinner celebration on 9/11":

The Democratic mayors of two Michigan cities plan to celebrate September 11th this year by honoring Sharia and hosting their "9th Annual Ramadan Unity Dinner."

Ramadan ended in July, but the Islamic Society of Greater Lansing has scheduled its dinner at the city-owned convention center on the very day when 19 Muslim terrorists killed 2,977 innocent victims at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and three crashed airliners, 14 years ago.

A few facts about the Mayors' Ramadan Unity Dinner, an event that has been held in Lansing annually since 2007, are less sensationalist and shocking, however:

  • Although the event is sponsored by the Muslim community, it is an event whose primary mission is about "bringing awareness to the plight of hunger and promoting a better understanding of how communities can help feed those that experience hunger and impart hope":

    The mission of the Ramadan Unity Dinner is to demonstrate the importance of diversity and the Muslim culture. This event embraces all community members — regardless of faith — so they can unite and work together towards a common goal, which is to support the hungry in our community. This is the very spirit of Ramadan.

    Proceeds from the dinner will be donated to the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

  • Stating that a Muslim-sponsored community event is "honoring" or "celebrating" sharia — an Islam-based legal system — is erroneous. The Mayors' Ramadan Unity Dinner has nothing to do with advocating or promoting a particular legal system.
  • The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is based on a lunar calendar and therefore moves around from year to year with respect to our solar (Gregorian) calendar. Although Ramadan took place between mid-June and mid-July on the Gregorian calendar in 2015, it began during the month of September when the first Ramadan Unity Dinner was held in 2007. The event has thus been scheduled in late August or early September every year since then, regardless of the dates of Ramadan itself.
  • For the last several years the Ramadan Unity Dinner has been held on the last Friday of August or the first Friday of September. This year's event is being held on the second Friday of September, which happens to fall on the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. We haven't yet received a response to our inquiry about the selection of date for this year's event, but it's possible the scheduling was influenced by an anticipated issue with securing the venue (Lansing Center) on other Fridays around that time.
The poster (seen above) advertising 2015's Ramadan Unity Dinner was shared by the Islamic Center of East Lansing, and the event's official Facebook page provides the date of the first event as 21 September 2007. An article published in 2010 described the event as one primarily focused on hunger in Lansing:

The evening was really billed as a fundraiser for hungry people in Michigan rather than as an interfaith event or an outreach event to Muslims, or as a religious event, although the name of the event and the many Muslims invited communicated the message of an attempt to build bridges to the Muslim community.

In 2014, detractors similarly objected when the Ramadan Unity Dinner fell close to (but not on) September 11. Although some social media users have expressed the belief that the date was specifically chosen for unspecified but ostensibly sinister reasons, it appears the event has consistently been held on a Friday in late August or early September for the last several years and was bound to fall on or around the 11th of September eventually.

On 24 August 2015, Mayor Bernero's office issued a press release announcing that due to the unfortunate confluence of dates, the event was being moved back a week to 18 September 2015:

The cities of Lansing and East Lansing announced today that the ninth annual Ramadan Unity Dinner, co-hosted by Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett, will be rescheduled to Friday, September 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the Lansing Center in downtown Lansing.

After due deliberation, the event organizers have decided that the community’s remembrance of the tragic events of 9-11 and the celebration of diversity and inclusion embodied in the Ramadan Unity Dinner should be held at separate times.

All tickets purchased for the original event date will be honored for the rescheduled date.

Last updated:      24 August 2015

Originally published:    24 August 2015

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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