WASHINGTON (RNS) President Obama highlighted the contributions of Muslim Americans Tuesday (Sept. 1) during his first Iftar dinner marking the observance of Ramadan.
“Islam, as we know, is part of America,” he said, addressing, diplomats, faith leaders and members of Congress gathered in the State Dining Room for the feast that traditionally breaks the daily fast during the monthlong holiday.
“Indeed, the contribution of Muslims to the United States are too long to catalog because Muslims are so interwoven into the fabric of our communities and our country.”

The president cited examples of Muslim Americans’ roles in American culture, from Kareem Khan, a soldier from New Jersey who died in Iraq, to Nashala Hearn, an Oklahoma student who fought in court for the right to wear a hijab, or headscarf, to school.
Obama said he was pleased the dinner was attended by people of a range of faiths — including Christians, Jews and Hindus, as well as prominent Muslims.
“Together, we have a responsibility to foster engagement grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect,” he said. “And that’s one of my fundamental commitments as president, both at home and abroad.”
Shirley Dobson, chairman of the nongovernmental National Day of Prayer Task Force, criticized Obama’s decision to mark Ramadan with a White House ceremony but not her group’s National Day of Prayer observance.
Dobson said “the president’s decision to carry on the tradition of hosting a White House dinner to celebrate the Muslim holy season of Ramadan is curious.” She continued: “It’s simply unfortunate that he didn’t choose to extend the same level of courtesy and recognition this past May to the millions of supporters and organizers of the National Day of Prayer.”
By Adelle M. Banks
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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