Obama praises Islam at Ramadan meal [Excerpts]
US President Barack Obama on [September 1] praised American Muslims for enriching the nation's culture at a dinner to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
"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," Obama said at the iftar, the dinner that breaks the holiday's daily fast.
The president joined Cabinet secretaries, members of the diplomatic corps and lawmakers to pay tribute to what he called "a great religion and its commitment to justice and progress."
Obama also noted the contributions of Muhammad Ali, who was not in attendance, though the president borrowed a quote from famous boxer, explaining religion.
"A few years ago," Obama said, "he explained this view - and this is part of why he's The Greatest - saying, 'Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams - they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do - they all contain truths.'"
Ramadan, a month long period of prayer, reflection and sunrise-to-sunset fasts, began Aug. 22 in most of the Islamic world. It is believed that God began revealing the Quran to Muhammad during Ramadan, and the faithful are supposed to spend the month in religious reflection, prayer and remembrance of the poor.
Obama also released a video message to Muslims before the start to Ramadan. In the video, he said Ramadan's rituals are a reminder of the principles Muslims and Christians have in common, including advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
[TBC: As many have noted (here is one example), “Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the rigid observance of thirty days of fasting during the daylight hours, has pagan roots developed in India and the Middle East. The observance of fasting to honor the moon, and ending the fast when the moon’s crescent appears, was practiced with the rituals of the Eastern worshippers of the moon. Both Ibn al-Nadim and the Shahrastani tell us about al-Jandrikinieh, an Indian sect which began to fast when the moon disappeared and ended the fast with a great feast when the crescent reappeared (Ibn Al Nadim, Al-Fahrisit, page 348). Further, Obama’s quotation of Muhammad Ali demonstrates his universalist beliefs.]