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Remarks by Deputy Secretary England at the Islamic Prayer Center Dedication

Presenter: Deputy Secretary Gordon England
June 06, 2006

           General Hagee, Chaplain Iaisello, General Conant, thank you for inviting me to join with you for this important event.

            My friends, and people of faith ....  Salaam...Peace be with you.

It is an honor to have so many distinguished guests from the diplomatic community with us today.  

            Today we formally dedicate the opening of the first Islamic Center on a U.S. Marine Corps Base.

Quantico is the crossroads of the Marine Corps and this prayer center will help educate many about the Islamic Faith, while it serves the Islamic community here.

            I’d like to offer my congratulations to the Marine Corps and the leadership both of Quantico and the Chaplain Corps who saw the need for this facility many months ago. 

            You took action to establish this prayer facility to serve the Islamic community until a permanent facility opens in 2009.   Well done!

            America is a Nation of people from all races and creeds who believe in Liberty and Freedom.

            Principal among these is Freedom of Religion.  

            It was the desire for religious freedom that caused the Pilgrims to sail to this land more than 400 years ago.

            Through the years Freedom has faced many challenges...but America has been blessed in having brave men and women who have volunteered to defend Freedom for our Nation and around the world.    

            These courageous men and women come from many backgrounds.  Muslim-Americans, like millions of other Americans, have always stepped forward to answer the call when freedom is threatened.  

            History has documented that members of the Islamic faith have served honorably in the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine for over a century.   

            Today more than 4,000 Muslim-Americans are proudly serving to preserve freedom. 

            Their service continues a long and noble tradition.

            Muslim-Americans served in the ships of our Navy and in the U.S. Army in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Grenada, Panama, the 1991 Gulf War. 

            Today they continue to serve with distinction and honor in the Long War on terror, supporting freedom and liberty worldwide from military missions to humanitarian relief operations.

            We are fortunate today to have with us Veterans who served with distinction.  

            I'm  particularly honored we have with us today Sergeant Nazim Abdul-Hakim. US Army.   

            62 years ago today on June 6, 1944...D-Day, “The Longest Day”...  Sergeant Abdul-Hakim now 86 years-old, was fighting on the beaches of Normandy with the Army’s Amphibious Engineers bringing soldiers and supplies ashore and paving the way to establish a permanent beachhead and to bring freedom to Europe. 

            Sergeant Abdul-Hakim....thank you.  Without your service and that of the “Greatest Generation” those here today would not have lived the lives we have so enjoyed.     

            Would you please stand and be recognized. 

            Another of the Muslim-American Veteran with us today is Sergeant First Class Mujahed Muhammed.

            Sergeant Muhammad was with the 15th Infantry as a Recon Patrol Leader during the Korean War when he was captured and by Communist Forces who held him from 1952-1954 as a Prisoner of War.

            That War, as it turned out, was first bloody battle of a long Cold War that lasted 40 years.   

            Sergeant Muhammed, we honor your service and sacrifice.

            Also with us today is Sergeant Gath Noor Kashif a member of the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, Today Sergeant Kashif is better known as Iman Kashif of Washington, DC.   

            Iman Kashif....thank you for your service to our Nation and your spiritual leadership.

            The second bloody battle of the Cold War was fought in Vietnam with us is Army Major Christopher Bell who served at Cam Ron Bay, Vietnam from 1967-1968 .    

            Today Dr. Bell (Phd)  and his colleagues have established  Muslim-American Veterans Association Posts in Washington DC, Chicago and Atlanta. 

            We appreciate the leadership and vision of Dr. Bell and his counterparts in caring for our Muslim Veterans.

            We also have some Veterans with us who have retired more recently...

            - Captain Mohammed Shakir, who served 30 years as a Navy Doctor and who cared for President Ronald Reagan following the 1981 attempt on his life. 

            - Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Rafay Hassan, retired after serving more than 24 years of service and

            - Marine Corps Major Alyce Smith who recently retired but continues to serve the Quantico community at the family support center where the permanent Islamic Prayer Center will be house.

            To all our veterans and all who are serving.....Thank You and Semper Fi!!! 

            Your example of service continues today with the thousands of Muslim-Americans in uniform.

            These men and women represent the best of our Nation.

            We see their courage in battle and their compassion in the Earth-quake ravaged mountains of Pakistan and the beaches and hills of Indonesia following the Tsunamis of 2004 and the Earth-quakes that struck only weeks ago.

            On behalf of the President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld and the American People...thank you for your proud and dedicated service.  

            This prayer center will serve the religious needs of our Muslim service members and their families, and will foster a better understanding of the rich cultural diversity and traditions that we so value.    

            At the end of the day we are brothers and sisters in the human family and we all seek God's blessings on our families and our work.  

            Before we dedicate the Prayer Center, I also wish to thank the International students who have used this facility and who will be graduating tomorrow from the Command and Staff College.

            Thank you for your leadership and service to your nations and the cause of security, freedom and peace.

You have developed many new friendships during your time in the United States....strong personal bonds for strong international relationships. 

            It is the friendship and partnerships between freedom-loving nations that will be needed to prevail in the Long War against terror. 

            Many thanks to all of you for your leadership, friendship and service....and again...Salaam...Peace be with you.