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10/31/03 - MUSLIMS AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM - 2003-11-05

Muslims have begun their observance of the holy month of Ramadan. This includes millions of Muslims in the United States. On October 28th, President George W. Bush invited Muslim leaders to the White House for Iftaar, the evening meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast observed during Ramadan:

“For Muslims in America and around the world, this holy time is set aside for prayer and fasting. It is also a good time for people of all faiths to reflect on the values we hold common: love of family, gratitude to God, and a commitment to religious freedom.”

During Ramadan, said President Bush, “Muslims come together to remember their dependence on God, and to show charity to their neighbors. Fasting during Ramadan helps Muslims focus on God’s greatness, to grow in virtue, and cultivate compassion toward those who live in poverty and hunger.” Moreover, he said, “The charity, discipline, and sacrifice practiced during Ramadan in America make America a better, more compassionate country.”

At the same time, said President Bush, the U.S. is “mindful of the struggles of the men and women around the world who long for the same peace and tolerance we enjoy. . .in America. Brave American and coalition troops are laboring every day to defend our liberty and to spread freedom and peace, particularly to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Mr. Bush stressed that the U.S. and its allies “will not allow criminals and terrorists to stop the advance of freedom”:

“Terrorists who use religion to justify the taking of innocent life have no home in any faith.”

As it defends liberty and justice abroad, said President Bush, the U.S. must continue to honor those values at home. “America rejects all forms of ethnic and religious bigotry. . . . And we will always protect the most basic human freedom -- the freedom to worship God without fear.”