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Muslims 'Enrich America' and Its Military, Says Wolfowitz

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2001 – U.S. service members of Muslim faith observed the end of the day's Ramadan fast Nov. 30 at an interfaith dinner at the Pentagon.

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Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz meets with U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen of Muslim and other faiths after the Nov. 30 Iftar dinner at the Pentagon. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz was the guest speaker at the Iftar dinner, a communal Muslim meal held after sundown at the end of each day of the holy month. Muslims may not eat or drink in the daytime during Ramadan.

Wolfowitz told his audience he was honored to attend the dinner, the fifth annual. No stranger to Muslim customs, the deputy defense secretary was U.S. ambassador to Indonesia -- the largest country in the Muslim world -- for three years during the Reagan administration.

He remarked: "It is especially gratifying for me to be able to share this evening with you and share this meal with you 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."

For centuries, Muslims have enriched the world "through their contributions to history, literature, architecture and mathematics," Wolfowitz noted.

Today, millions of Muslims enrich America and its military, he added. The co-sponsor of the dinner, the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council, estimates that some 15,000 U.S. service members are of the Muslim faith.

Wolfowitz remarked that "the campaign to bring peace to the people of Afghanistan" has continued through Ramadan this year "because, as the President (Bush) reminded us 'Evil has no holy days.'"

Six times in the past decade, U.S. military men and women have risked their lives to help Muslims in Kuwait, northern Iraq, Somalia, Kosovo, Bosnia, and now, Afghanistan, Wolfowitz noted.

In today's war against global terrorism, Wolfowitz remarked that America and its allies around the world "are fighting against an evil that arose from an irrationally, and ultimately selfish, attempt to appropriate a great religion."

He noted that the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on America "hijacked a country which is now being liberated."

Those terrorists also "attempted to hijack a great religion, but 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," Wolfowitz said.

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