Islam has always been part of our American family: Obama

Iftar party
Welcoming guests at the annual White House Iftaar party, US President Barack Obama said, Islam has always been part of the American family and Muslim Americans have long contributed to the strength and character of our country in all walks of life.

Attended by some 100 special invited guests including ambassadors of mostly Muslim countries and eminent Muslim academicians and community leaders, Akram Syed of the National Association of Indian Muslims was among the few Indian-Americans to attend the high-profile annual event at the White House.

Other special guests included families of Muslim victims of the 9/11 attacks, as well as Muslim members of the US Armed Services.

Obama said the annual Ramadan dinner, a tradition that President Clinton began and President George W Bush continued, is quintessentially American.

"No matter who we are or how we pray, we're all children of a loving God," he said.

"To the millions of Muslim Americans across the United States and more – the more than one billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a time of reflection and a time of devotion," Obama said in his brief remarks.

"It's an occasion to join with family and friends in celebration of a faith known for its diversity and a commitment to justice and the dignity of all human beings. So to you and your families, Ramadan Kareem," he said.

"This evening reminds us of both the timeless teachings of a great religion and the enduring strengths of a great nation.

Like so many faiths, Islam has always been part of our American family, and Muslim Americans have long contributed to the strength and character of our country, in all walks of life. This has been especially true over the past 10 years," Obama said.

Referring to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 next month, Obama said it will be a time to honour all those that the country has lost, the families who carry on their legacy, the heroes who rushed to help that day and all who have served to keep us safe during a difficult decade.

"And tonight, it's worth remembering that these Americans were of many faiths and backgrounds, including proud and patriotic Muslim Americans," he said.

"An America that doesn't simply tolerate people of different backgrounds and beliefs, but an America where we are enriched by our diversity.

An America where we treat one another with respect and with dignity, remembering that here in the US there is no "them" or "us;" it's just us," he said.

"An America where our fundamental freedoms and inalienable rights are not simply preserved, but continually renewed and refreshed – among them the right of every person to worship as they choose," Obama said.

"An America that stands up for dignity and the rights of people around the world, whether a young person demanding his or her freedom in the Middle East or North Africa, or a hungry child in the Horn of Africa, where we are working to save lives," he said.

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