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Bush On Religious Freedom

At the rededication of the Islamic Center, in Washington, President George W. Bush said, "We come to express our appreciation for a faith that has enriched civilization for centuries. We come in celebration of America's diversity of faith and our unity as free people. And we hold in our hearts the ancient wisdom of the great Muslim poet, Rumi: 'The lamps are different, but the light is the same.'"

In an effort to promote understanding between America and Muslim countries, President Bush announced the appointment of a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. This envoy, said Mr. Bush, "will listen to and learn from representatives from Muslim states and will share with them America's views and values." Key among these values, said President Bush, is freedom of religion:

"It is a precious freedom. It is a basic compact under which people of faith agree not to impose their spiritual vision on others, and in return to practice their own beliefs as they see fit. This is the promise of our constitution, and the calling of our conscience, and a source of our strength."

"The freedom to worship," said Mr. Bush, "is so central to America's character that we tend to take it personally when that freedom is denied to others. America was a leading voice on behalf of the Jewish refusniks in the Soviet Union. Americans joined in common cause with Catholics and Protestants who prayed in secret behind the Iron Curtain. America," he said, "has stood with Muslims seeking to freely practice their beliefs in places like Burma and China."

During times of war and natural disaster, Americans assist Muslim communities as they world any other community in need across the globe. U.S. aid flowed to victims of devastating earthquakes in Pakistan and Iran. Private American citizens contributed significantly to Indonesia-Malaysia tsunami relief efforts in addition to U.S. government aid. The U.S. also defended Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo after the breakup of Yugoslavia. And today, the U.S. is rallying the world to confront genocide in Sudan.

Americans of all beliefs, said President Bush, have undertaken these efforts out of compassion and conviction. America offers its friendship to Muslims around the world and in turn asks that people of all faiths join in the pursuit of freedom, religious tolerance, and peace.