U.S. Official Speeches and Interviews
President Obama Honors American Muslims at White House Iftar
President Obama, continuing the White House tradition of hosting a dinner in recognition of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, told guests the United States will continue to stand for a society where people have the right to worship as they chose.
“Ramadan is a time of reflection and a time of devotion. It’s an occasion to join with family and friends in celebration of a faith known for its diversity and a commitment to justice and the dignity of all human beings,” Obama said August 10 at a White House iftar for approximately 100 guests.
For Muslims, 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.
In his remarks, the president cited the upcoming 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and said that “proud and patriotic Muslim Americans” were among those who lost their lives and who responded to the emergency.
The nation for which the victims died and heroes sacrificed does not merely tolerate people of different backgrounds and beliefs, but treats all of its citizens with dignity and respect, he said.
It is a nation “where our fundamental freedoms and inalienable rights are not simply preserved, but continually renewed — among them the right of every person to worship as they chose,” he said.
Joining Obama were family members of Muslim September 11 victims, police and firefighters, as well as members of the U.S. armed forces. The guest list also included members of his Cabinet, members of the diplomatic corps in Washington – including ambassadors from predominantly Muslim or Middle Eastern countries – 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.
In 1805, President Thomas Jefferson hosted what many consider as the first such dinner in honor of Tunisian envoy Sidi Soliman Mellimelli. White House iftars have been held annually for the past 10 years.
After the president spoke, he joined his guests at the dinner, which was held in the State Dining Room, whose tables were covered in crimson and gold damask featuring tall white tapers surrounding floral centerpieces.