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Iftaar Dinner
Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, The Pentagon, Friday, November 30, 2001

Thank you for that extremely kind introduction. Permit me to begin by saying, as I learned to say in Indonesia, "As-Sallamu 'aleykum wa-rahmat ullah wa-barakatihi," [Peace be upon you and the mercy of God and his blessings as well].

It's a great honor for me to be able to join you tonight for this celebration. Thank you, Chaplain Horton [Executive Director, Armed Forces Chaplains Board]. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

This is a holy month and I know the hour of breaking the fast is an hour of rejoicing. It's especially gratifying for me to be able to share this evening with you and share this meal with you. You, who are men and women of the U.S. military who, as President Bush has said, "contribute not just to the military might of our country but to its meaning and its conscience and its soul."

Through the centuries, Muslim faithful have enriched the world with their contributions to history, literature and mathematics. Today millions of Americans enrich our nation and enrich our armed forces. Through faithfulness to Islam during this month of Ramadan, Muslim Americans encourage us all to focus our attention on God's call to brotherhood.

As we gather here tonight, the campaign to bring peace to the people of Afghanistan continues. It continues without pause even though this is a holy month, because, as the President reminded us at an Iftaar last week at the White House, "evil has no holy days."

Tonight many of our fellow Americans are serving in harm's way, united with our allies and friends, once again in defense of a Muslim people. And it bears repeating that five times—now six times—in the last ten years, American men and women have gone into harm's way to defend people against aggression or war-induced famine. And in each one of those cases—whether it was Kuwait, Northern Iraq, Somalia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan—as it happens, the people we were coming to help were predominantly Muslim people.

Serving with their Muslim allies from Pakistan and allies from around the world, Americans are fighting an evil that arose from an irrational and ultimately selfish attempt to appropriate a great religion.

But as men have learned from age to age, God can bring good from evil. We need only look at the outpouring of compassion and charity that followed the attacks of September 11th for proof of this truth.

The terrorists who hijacked airplanes on September 11th hijacked Afghanistan, a country which is now being liberated, and they attempted to hijack a great religion. Each time faithful Muslims gather in prayer and in peace, you reclaim your faith and reaffirm the great gift that Islam has been to humanity through the centuries.

Mohammed said that those who provide a fasting person with something to eat will be blessed as though they themselves had fasted. As we gather tonight in this spirit of generosity, we are mindful of the great blessings that we enjoy. We are thankful to share them with others.

We remember those in Afghanistan who break their fast this day with bread that America and our allies have helped to provide. We rejoice in the fact that, once again, as so many times before in history, Americans in uniform are welcomed as liberators.

We remember those whose oppressors have long deprived them of basic human dignity and we hope they may soon find their fill of justice and freedom.

We as Americans can give thanks that we live in a nation where men and women can be what they choose, say what they choose, worship as they choose. We live in a country where men and women of all races and all faiths can serve side by side to defend a way of life that Abraham Lincoln correctly said "holds out a great promise to all the people of the world for all time to come."

As we give thanks for this great promise, I wish you all a blessed Ramadan. May God bless America and may God bless all the wonderful men and women who serve this country in uniform. Thank you. [Applause.]