Ramadan teaches and reinforces values that are honored by millions and tens and hundreds of millions of people from other faiths and beliefs. So tonight, while we celebrate together, let us consider how we can build broader and deeper bonds of mutual understanding, mutual respect and cooperation among people of all faiths in the year to come, here at home and abroad. And let us also reflect on how we can improve our efforts to ensure that we create more opportunity for more people in more places to live up to their own God-given potential.
We sit down together for this meal on a day when the news is carrying reports that a pastor down in Gainesville, Florida plans to burn the Holy Qu’ran on September 11th. I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths, from evangelical Christians to Jewish rabbis, as well as secular U.S. leaders and opinion-makers. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. Many of you know that in 1790, George Washington wrote to a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, that this country will give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
The real story of Islam in America can be found in this room and rooms across America. We write it tonight, in the spirit of fellowship and the celebration of goodwill that is a hallmark of Ramadan. We will write it in the months and years to come, as we continue to reach out to engage people around the world in a search for common ground, common understanding, and common respect.
Just in the past week, we are reminded by the resumption of Middle East peace talks that progress always, always must be possible in spite of difficulty. And when there is a willingness to engage, to convey respect to those of differing views, we can work toward reconciliation. In the end, I believe with all my heart that most people in the world are united by a shared desire for a peaceful future in which all our children, regardless of where they were born or how they worship, can have that opportunity to become all that they are meant to be in the name of the Almighty and in furtherance of our common humanity.
We may be focused on issues closer to home, but it is in the interest of everyone to unequivocally condemn burning of the Qu’ran. Such bigotry has no place in the world today, and most certainly must not live a day longer.
Image is a screenshot by author