President Bush welcomed Muslim leaders to the White House for an Iftar dinner marking the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
President Bush says the United States is stronger and more hopeful because of the generosity and compassion of Muslim Americans and is safer and more prosperous because of its close relationship with Islamic friends around the world.
"For Muslims in America and around the world, Ramadan is a special time of reflection, fasting, and charity," said Mr. Bush. "It is a time to think of the less fortunate and to share God's gifts with those in need. It is a time of spiritual growth and prayer. And the heartfelt prayers offered by Muslims across America are a blessing for our whole nation."
In this time of togetherness and thanksgiving, President Bush says Muslims in America are thinking of their brothers and sisters in distant lands whose lives, Mr. Bush says, are being lifted up by liberty and by hope.
"In Iraq, families are observing this holy month in a free society," he added. "After enduring decades of tyranny and fear, the Iraqi people are guiding their nation toward democracy. And this January, they will choose their leaders in a free election."
The president says the planned elections in Iraq and the just-finished vote in Afghanistan are landmark events in the history of liberty and America will always be proud of its efforts to bring hope to those nations.
"Freedom is not America's gift to the world. Freedom is the almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world," he explained. "Over the next four years, we will work to ensure that the gift of freedom reaches more men and women in the broader Middle East. By working with leaders in that region, we can advance reform and change in a vital part of the world, and as we do so, we will build a better future for all mankind."
As the president says America defends liberty and justice abroad, he says Americans must also honor those values at home.
"At our founding, America made a commitment to justice and tolerance, and we keep that commitment today," said Mr. Bush. "We reject ethnic and religious bigotry in every form. We strive for a welcoming society that honors the life and faith of every person. We will always protect the most basic human freedom: the freedom to worship the almighty God without any fear."
In recent years, President Bush says Americans of many faiths have come to learn more about their Muslim brothers and sisters. The more they learn, Mr. Bush says, the more Americans find that these commitments are broadly shared.
"As Americans, we all share a commitment to family, to protect and to love our children," he said. "We share a belief in God's justice and man's moral responsibility. We share the same hope for a future of peace. We have so much in common and so much to learn from one and other."
The president's Iftar dinner at the White House follows more than 60 such dinners at U.S. embassies around the world. U.S. diplomats hosted the dinners during Ramadan as part of an effort to promote understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.