President Bush welcomed Muslim leaders to the White House Monday evening for the traditional meal that marks the end of the daily Ramadan fast. His guests included prominent Muslim-Americans and ambassadors from countries with large Islamic populations.
It has become an annual event at the White House, an opportunity for the president to mark the holy month of Ramadan by hosting an Iftaar dinner.
"Our distinguished guests represent the millions of Muslims that we are proud to call Americans, and many Islamic nations represented here that America is proud to call friend," Mr. Bush says.
President Bush spoke of Islam as a religion that emphasizes faith and family. And he urged all those in the room to join a number of well-known Muslim scholars in denouncing those who - in his words - commit evil in God's name.
"I appreciate those of you here who have joined these scholars in rejecting violent extremists and I believe the time has come for all responsible Islamic leaders to denounce an ideology that exploits Islam for political ends and defiles your noble faith," Mr. Bush says.
In brief remarks to his guests, Mr. Bush talked about their shared commitment to the right of all people to live in freedom. As he has many times in the past, the president stressed that religious tolerance is key and there is no place for bigotry in the United States or in the world.
"All of us gathered tonight share the conviction that America must remain a welcoming and tolerant land in which our people are free to practice any faith they choose," Mr. Bush says.
This was the fifth Iftaar dinner hosted by President Bush at the White House. The first was held after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States as part of an all-out effort to convince the Muslim-American community that its contributions to the nation are appreciated, and to underscore the message that the United States is waging war on terrorism and not on Islam.