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Gates, Fallen Soldier’s Mother Share Ramadan Meal

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the mother of a fallen soldier were among dozens who gathered last night at the White House for the annual Iftar dinner.

President Barack Obama hosted the meal that marks a break in fasting during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

Among the ambassadors, members of Congress and other guests was Elsheba Khan, whose 20-year-old son, Army Spc. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, was killed in Iraq on Aug. 6, 2007.

Khan was among four U.S. soldiers killed by a roadside bomb that day in Baqubah. They were assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Khan grew up in Manahawkin, N.J., and was 14 when terrorists struck the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. He joined the military after high school, and went on to receive the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and, Obama said last night, “the admiration of his fellow soldiers.”

Khan is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where a Muslim crescent marks his grave, just as crosses and stars mark the graves of fallen Christian and Jewish heroes, Obama noted. “These brave Americans are joined in death as they were in life -- by a common commitment to their country, and the values that we hold dear,” he said.

The president recognized during last night’s Iftar that similar observances were being carried out throughout the United States during Ramadan.

“For well over a billion Muslims, Ramadan is a time of intense devotion and reflection,” he said. “It's a time of service and support for those in need. And it is also a time for family and friends to come together in a celebration of their faith, their communities, and the common humanity that all of us share.”

Obama recognized contributions Muslims have made to the United States, and the importance of people of all backgrounds to work together with mutual respect to achieve shared goals.

“Tonight, we celebrate a great religion, and its commitment to justice and progress. We honor the contributions of America's Muslims, and the positive example that so many of them set through their own lives,” Obama said. “And we rededicate ourselves to the work of building a better and more hopeful world.”

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