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Bush Calls Ramadan Time to Unite in Confronting Extremism

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2007 – The United States stands with mainstream citizens across the Middle East in facing off with an enemy intent on destroying not just American society, but also the advance of freedom in Muslim societies around the world, President Bush said during a Ramadan dinner last night at the White House.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
President Bush welcomes Muslim guests to the iftar dinner in the State Dining Room of the White House, Oct. 4, 2007. White House photo by Chris Greenberg
  

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

Bush hosted American Muslim leaders and ambassadors and representatives from Muslim nations for the iftar dinner to mark the Muslim holy month. An iftar is a meal served after a day of fasting during Ramadan, which began Sept. 13 this year and continues through Oct. 12.

Noting that Ramadan is a time of prayer, fasting and reflection, Bush said it’s also a time for Americans of all faiths to reflect on values they share with Muslims: love of family, gratitude to God, devotion to community and a commitment to religious freedom.

Muslims and people of other faiths also share a common enemy in violent extremists seeking to “tear the fabric of our society” and stop the advance of freedom in Muslim societies, the president said.

“They attack holy sites, destroy mosques and minarets, and kill innocent men, women and children -- including Muslims who do not share their radical views,” he said. “They believe that by spreading chaos and violence, they can frustrate the desire of Muslims to live in freedom and peace.

“We say to them: ‘You don't represent Muslims. You do not represent Islam, and you will not succeed,’” Bush said.

The United States stands with citizens throughout the broader Middle East to oppose these enemies, the president said. Such citizens include nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a democratic future, Afghans defending their young democracy against the Taliban and al Qaeda, and Lebanese people who raised the banner of a Cedar Revolution to reclaim freedom and independence.

“We're standing with all who seek the blessings of liberty and the peace that freedom brings,” the president said. “Americans have a history of standing with Muslims facing suffering and hardship, and it’s a proud history.”

Americans defended Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo after Yugoslavia dissolved, he noted. They supported Kuwait after Saddam Hussein invaded it. They came to the aid of victims of devastating earthquakes in Pakistan, India and Iran. They responded with urgency and compassion after a tsunami devastated Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Meanwhile, Bush said, the United States is rallying the world to confront genocide and deliver aid in Sudan, while supporting a Palestinian democracy that lives side by side and at peace with Israel.

The president urged attendees at the iftar dinner to renew their faith in the universality of freedom. “Let us celebrate the millions of Muslims that we are proud to call American citizens,” he said. “And let us honor the many Muslim nations that America is proud to call friends.”

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Abuhena M. Saifulislam, one of just 10 Muslim chaplains serving in the U.S. military, offered the evening prayer before guests feasted on a traditional menu of squash soup with lavash flatbread, spiced rack of lamb, cucumber-tomato salad with minted yogurt dressing, and baklava with pomegranate.

"On this day and days to come, by all our differences, by all our aspiration, by fear by sorrow and joy in life and death, teach us and lead us nearer to you,” he said.

Saifulislam started his prayer by explaining that Mohammed said anyone who invites another to break the fast with him during Ramadan gets the same spiritual benefit. “Mr. President, we've got you covered," Saifulislam told Bush.

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