Rupi Kaur declined the White House’s invitation to celebrate Diwali due to their stance on the conflict between Israel and Gaza.
Canadian poet Rupi Kaur has declined an invitation to celebrate Diwali at the White House on 8 November in protest of the Biden administration’s support of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
On X, Kaur stated that she was invited by the Biden administration to attend a Diwali event hosted by the Vice President on November 8th.
The lengthy post contained a letter from Kaur, where she expressed her surprise that the administration is choosing to celebrate Diwali despite their support for the ongoing atrocities against Palestinians. This goes against the true meaning of the holiday for many of us.
In other parts of the post, she stated: “I decline any offer from a group that endorses penalizing a confined community – half of which are young ones.”
Diwali, the five-day festival of lights that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, is celebrated by many faiths including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. Kaur said she always used the holiday “to reflect on what it means to fight for freedom against oppression”.
Kamala Harris, as the current vice-president, will be hosting an annual celebration for Diwali at the White House starting in 2021. The previous year’s event was the largest ever held at the White House with 200 attendees, including notable south Asian figures like Mindy Kaling, Lily Singh, and Jay Shetty.
Kaur urged other members of the south Asian community to hold the Biden administration responsible.
Kaur stated that as a community, we must not stay quiet or compliant in order to gain a position of influence. The consequences for doing so are too great and result in loss of human life.
Over 10,000 Palestinian lives have been lost due to Israeli military actions in response to Hamas militants killing 1,400 Israelis and holding 250 more as hostages on October 7th. Numerous individuals and organizations, such as the leaders of UN bodies and human rights advocates, have called for a ceasefire, but Israel has not agreed to it.
The involvement of the US in the conflict in Gaza has been heavily examined. Following weeks of the Gaza blockade, Biden suggested a temporary ceasefire as a potential means to secure the release of Israeli hostages. Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also expressed openness to brief pauses in the violence.