President Bush welcomed Muslim leaders to the White House Thursday evening for an Iftaar dinner breaking the fast during the holy month of Ramadan. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

The special guests at this year's Iftaar dinner were American Muslim women who have contributed to the nation's science, education, arts, and culture.

Mr. Bush said Ramadan is a time of charity and service to those less fortunate and a time to celebrate Islam's learned and vibrant culture which he says he enriched civilization for centuries. "Ramadan is also a good time for Americans of all faiths to reflect on the values we hold in common including love of family, gratitude to the Almighty, devotion to community, and a commitment to religious liberty," he said.

Today, the president said, the world is at war with violent extremists who seek to stop the advance of freedom in Muslim societies around the world. "They attack holy sites, destroy mosques and minarets, and kill innocent men, women and children including Muslims who do not share their radical views. They believe that by spreading chaos and violence they can frustrate the desire of Muslims to live in freedom and peace. We say to them, 'You do not represent Muslims. You do not represent Islam. And you will not succeed,'" he said.

Mr. Bush says America is standing with mainstream citizens across the Middle East including Iraqis who voted for a democratic future and Lebanese who are reclaiming their freedom and independence.

This was the seventh Iftaar dinner the president and Mrs. Bush hosted at the White House for American Muslim leaders and ambassadors and representatives from Muslim nations.

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Abuhena Saifulislam offered the evening's prayer. "On this day and days to come, by all our differences, by all our aspiration, by fear by sorrow and joy in life and death, teach us and lead us nearer to you. Almighty God, thank you for the fellowship, and please bless the food that we are about to share. We all ask this in your Almighty name and recognize you as our provider and sustainer. Amen," he said.

Saifulisam quoted the Prophet Mohammad as saying that whoever in the month of Ramadan invites a person to break their fast, that person receives the same reward as the person who is fasting. So, "Mr. President", he said, "we have got you covered, man."