In addition to honoring the Muslim faith during Ramadan, the Pentagon’s 16th annual iftar demonstrated the importance of diversity and equality within the Defense Department, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said.
Iftar is the post-sunset breaking of the fast during the Islamic holy month.
Work, who spoke at an iftar held at the Pentagon yesterday, drew attention to the 4,500 Muslim Americans in uniform and the additional 1,000 civilians and contractors who work for the department.
“Ramadan reminds us of our shared responsibility to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves and the basic principles that bind people of different faiths together by yearning for peace, justice and equality,” Work said, citing the words of President Barack Obama.
“Tonight is an opportunity for people of different faiths to come together in the spirit of respect and tolerance to share the richness of our beliefs and to enjoy the traditions of hospitality that are such an important part of the Muslim community,” the deputy secretary said.
He also recognized Gold Star Mother Shibra Khan and guest speaker Georgetown University chaplain Imam Yahya Hendi at the event.
Work reminded attendees that they gathered not only as people of faith, but also as those who have taken the mantle of responsibility in service to the nation and fellow citizens.
“Our country’s founders understood in a visceral way [that] the best way to honor the place of faith in the lives of all Americans was to fight for justice and equality as well as liberty and freedom,” he said. “That is exactly what the men and women both in and out of uniform who serve in the Department of Defense do every single day. They are safeguarding the very ideals deemed so precious by our founding fathers.”
Work noted that religious freedom encompasses soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilian contractors. “The United States’ all-volunteer force is stronger because of the diversity and because of the culture of inclusion that we try to instill in every single person inside the Department of Defense,” he said.
The deputy secretary also said the U.S. military is among the finest not because of its equipment and technology, but because of its people.
“Our nation and our entire military family remain stronger because of the service and sacrifice of people of all faiths, including the thousands of patriotic Muslim Americans who have served and still serve in this long period of war,” Work said. “They continue a long and noble tradition of generations of Muslim Americans who have defended this country.”
(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDODNews)