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President Bush Marks Start of Ramadan - 2002-11-08

President Bush hosted an Iftaar dinner at the White House Thursday marking the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The president thanked Muslim nations that are backing the fight against international terrorism.

President Bush says Ramadan is a time to remember the ties of friendship and respect between the United States and the Muslim world.

He told a gathering of senior staff and ambassadors from Muslim countries that it is a founding principle of the United States to respect religious freedoms and the country is stronger for the contributions of Muslim-Americans. "Islam is a religion that brings hope and comfort to more than one billion people around the world. It has made brothers and sisters of every race," said President Bush. "It has given birth to a rich culture of learning and literature and science."

Muslim adults fast during the holy month of Ramadan to commemorate their belief of the revelation of God's word to the prophet Mohammed. President Bush says he hosted this dinner to show his respect for that word and the contemplation of God's greatness. "Today, this word inspires faithful Muslims to lead lives of honesty and integrity and compassion," he said. "In hosting tonight's Iftaar, I send a message to all the nations represented by their ambassadors here tonight. America treasures your friendship. America honors your faith."

Mr. Bush thanked Muslim nations that are helping in the U.S.-led fight against terrorism. Following last year's attacks in New York and Washington, there was a brief period of anti-Muslim violence in the United States which the president firmly denounced.

He repeated that message Thursday, saying an Iftaar dinner at the White House also sends a message to all Americans that religious intolerance is unacceptable. "Our nation is waging a war on a radical network of terrorists," he said. "Not on a religion and not on a civilization. As we wage this war to defend our principles, we must live up to those principles ourselves. And one of the deepest commitments of America is tolerance. No one should be treated unkindly because of the color of their skin or the content of their creed. No one should be unfairly judged by appearance or ethnic background or religious faith."

President Bush says Americans must uphold the values of progress and pluralism and tolerance in honoring the traditions of a great faith as Muslims celebrate the month of Ramadan.