President Bush is once again reaching out to Muslims, seeking their support for the war on terrorism. At a Ramadan-season event at the White House, he called attention to the qualities of charity, sacrifice and strong personal faith that he says are so much a part of Islam.
The president invited Muslim leaders to the White House for an Iftaar dinner - the evening meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
"For Muslims in America and around the world, this holy time is set aside for prayer and fasting," he said. "It is also a good time for people of all faiths to reflect on the values we hold in common: love of family, gratitude to God, and a commitment to religious freedom."
They sat around round tables, sharing food and conversation. Ambassadors from most countries with sizable Muslim populations were in attendance, as were Muslim-American leaders, and Bush administration officials.
As he welcomed his 80 guests, the president spoke of the importance of religious freedom for all. He reflected on the drive for peace and tolerance in Afghanistan and Iraq. And he stressed once again that America is waging war on terrorism and not on Islam.
"Terrorists who use religion to justify the taking of innocent life have no home in any faith," said the president.
As he made those comments, Mr. Bush was only too aware of the controversy surrounding the words of a top U-S military officer involved in the war on terrorism. Army Lieutenant General William Boykin is under investigation by the Defense Department for comments in which he likened America's battle against terror to a conflict between the followers of Christianity and those of Islam.
The president did not mention General Boykin by name. But he made clear he does not agree with the general's remarks. "America rejects all forms of ethnic and religious bigotry," he said. "We welcome the values of every responsible citizen, no matter the land of their birth. And we will always protect the most basic human freedom: the freedom to worship God without fear."
This is the third year in which the president has hosted an Iftaar dinner. The first was held after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, to call attention to the need for religious tolerance and unity during a trying time for America.