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11/8/02 - RAMADAN BEGINS FOR MUSLIMS - 2002-11-08

Around the world, more than one-billion Muslims have begun their observance of the holy month of Ramadan. This includes millions of Muslims in the United States. “These proud citizens,” said President George W. Bush, “contribute to the diversity that makes our country strong.” In a message to Muslims, President Bush said the U.S. “is grateful for the friendship and support of many Muslim nations that are vital partners in the global coalition to fight against terrorism.”

Ramadan is a time for fasting, prayer, worship, and contemplation. Muslims observe this month by renewing their dedication to caring for those in need, doing good deeds, and strengthening family and community ties. These actions reflect many of the values that Muslims share with people of other faiths across the U.S. and around the world, including courage, compassion, and service.

Many people outside the U.S. are unaware of how widespread religious belief is in America. According to a recent report, some one-hundred-forty million people, or over half of all Americans, are involved with a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple. Christianity has the most adherents in the U.S., but other faiths are also well represented, including Islam. Indeed, Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the U.S. today, with more than one-thousand two-hundred mosques and four-hundred Islamic schools.

America’s respect for all religions is a result of its longstanding commitment to religious freedom. Centuries ago, the first American settlements were established by people fleeing religious persecution in their homeland. As the U.S. developed into a unified yet diverse country, said President Bush, the practice of tolerance became “a command of faith” for millions of people.

Religious freedom has been essential to the protection of other basic rights in the U.S., as well as the growth of democracy. For a government that protects freedom of religion and conscience is one that understands the inherent dignity of every human being. And such a government is far more likely to protect, through the rule of law, the other rights fundamental to human dignity. These include freedom of expression, association, and assembly.

As President Bush said in his Ramadan message, “America remains committed to freedom, justice, and opportunity for all people. During this season of reverence and examination, we continue to work together for a future of peace, tolerance, and understanding.”