02 September 2009

President Obama Hosts a White House Iftar

Obama at podium, Abdul-Qaadir standing next to him (AP Images)
President Obama introduces Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a college student, during a White House meal held September 1 to celebrate Ramadan.

Washington — As America recognizes the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, President Obama says, “we also celebrate how much Muslims have enriched America and its culture.”

“The contributions of Muslims to the United States are too long to catalog because Muslims are so interwoven into the fabric of our communities and our country,” Obama said at a White House iftar meal September 1. Ramadan is a period of reflection and devotion that includes daily fasting from sunrise to sunset. The iftar is a meal that breaks the daily fast after sunset.

Joining Obama were members of his Cabinet, members of the diplomatic corps in Washington and members of Congress, including Representatives Keith Ellison of Minnesota and André Carson of Indiana, who are the first two Muslims to serve in the U.S. Congress.

After the president spoke, he joined his guests at the dinner, which was held in the State Dining Room, whose tables were covered in green tablecloths featuring tall white tapers surrounding floral centerpieces. Outside the dining room in the Grand Foyer was a round table that held a raised platter of dates, a traditional feature of the iftar meal.

“For well over a billion Muslims, Ramadan is a time of intense devotion and reflection,” the president said. “It’s a time of service and support for those in need. And it is also a time for family and friends to come together in celebration of their faith, their communities and the common humanity that all of us share.”

“It is in that spirit that I welcome each and every one of you to the White House,” Obama added.

White House iftars have been held for the past eight years.

“Together, we have a responsibility to foster engagement grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect,” Obama said in his opening remarks at the White House iftar. “That is central to the new beginning that I’ve sought between the United States and Muslims around the world. And that is a commitment that we can renew once again during this holy season.”

“Tonight, we celebrate a great religion and its commitment to justice and progress,” Obama said.

A complete transcript of the president’s remarks is available on America.gov.

What foreign affairs decisions should President Obama consider? Comment on America.gov’s blog Obama Today.

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