WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) -- President Barack Obama saluted Muslim Americans on Thursday for their contributions in helping build the nation as business entrepreneurs, technology innovators and pioneers in medicine.
Obama spoke at a White House dinner he hosted to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The meal, or iftar, breaks the day of fasting when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset.
President Barack Obama speaks as he hosts an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House, Thursday, July 25, 2013, in Washington. Credit: AP
Beliefnet has more about the important Islamic month:
Ramadan is well known as the famous month-long fast of Islam. But Ramadan is actually also the proper name of a specific month in the Islamic calendar. Just as September is the name of the ninth month of the Western calendar, so Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
And yes, the calendar month of Ramadan is the month during which Muslims fast, from sunrise until sunset, every single day throughout the entire month. This is not considered optional, but is regarded as a compulsory religious duty (it is one of the so-called “Five Pillars of Islam,” each of which is incumbent upon all Muslims to abide by). [...]
What’s so special about the month of Ramadan? Well, it’s regarded by Muslims as the holiest month in the entire Islamic calendar. It was during the month of Ramadan that Muhammad first began to receive the divine revelations that would then continue for the remaining 23 years of his life, and which would subsequently be compiled by his followers as the holy Quran (or Koran), which Muslims revere as the actual, literal Word of God.
During the event, Obama said Ramadan is "a time of reflection, a chance to demonstrate one's devotion to God through prayer and through fasting, but it's also a time for family and friends to come together."
He said it is a White House tradition to celebrate sacred days of various faiths, adding that these occasions celebrate diversity that defines the country and reaffirms the freedom to worship.
Obama said Americans and people in the Middle East also have a common goal for economic opportunity and entrepreneurship.
President Barack Obama winks as he speaks at an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House, Thursday, July 25, 2013, in Washington. Credit: AP
"We work a little harder, we aim a little higher and we keep striving to create more opportunity for our children and future generations," Obama said. "Of course this isn't just the American dream, it's the aspiration of people around the world. It's the basic, human desire for progress, to find dignity that comes from work to give our children something better."
He said these yearnings for economic freedom and opportunity, just as much as political freedom, "are at the root of so much of the change we've seen around the world in the past few years, including in North Africa and in the Middle East."
Watch his speech, below:
Obama was joined by members of his administration, elected officials, religious leaders and members of the diplomatic corps as he hosted his fifth iftar in the State Dining Room.
This event reflected previous Ramadan celebrations Obama has held. Similarly, former President George W. Bush held events commemorating the Muslim holy month during his two terms in office.