‘There’s no them and us – it’s just us’: Obama honors Muslim 9/11 victims at White House Ramadan dinner
Tears flowed as U.S. President Barack hosted the traditional Ramadan dinner at the White House, only one month shy of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Mr Obama, who turned 50 last week, led the emotional evening last night and thanked the Muslim community for their help in dealing with the September 11 tragedy, which caused nearly 3,000 deaths.
The president honoured the Muslims for their help on home soil a decade ago, and also thanked them for their contributions to the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now scroll down to watch a video of President Obama’s Ramadan speech
With a month to go before the 10-year anniversary of September 11, Mr Obama used the Ramadan dinner to remember that people of many backgrounds perished in the 2001 attacks – including many American Muslims, who ‘made the ultimate sacrifice’.
In his speech, which he made to the 100 guests before the dinner began, the president said: ‘Muslim Americans were [the] first responders … the EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) … the nurse who tended to so many victims, the naval officer at the Pentagon who rushed into the flames and pulled the injured to safety.’
He continued, paying tribute to the ‘brave service of our men and women in uniform, including thousands of Muslim Americans … [and] some [who] have made the ultimate sacrifice.’
The president also thanked the mother of Army Specialist Kareem Khan, who was killed while serving in Iraq, for attending the dinner and said: ‘We must be the America they lived for, and the America they died for.’
And Mr Obama praised Mrs Mansura Shajahan, whose husband died in the 9/11 attacks, who stood up to acknowledge him and burst into floods of tears, producing one of the most moving moments of the evening.
Further, in an effort to bind tighter the disparate threads of American society, Mr Obama put aside religious differences and said: ‘There’s no them and us – it’s just us.’
Seated in the audience at the dinner were the two members of Congress who practice Islam: Representatives Andre Carson and Keith Ellison.
Huma Abedin, the Muslim aide of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wife of former Representative Anthony Weiner, recently disgraced, was also in attendance
In addition, there were government officials, Muslim community leaders and other leaders of faith groups in attendance.
The dinner, known as an ‘iftar’, breaks the day-long fast Muslims observe from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.
It was the third dinner that Mr Obama had hosted of this kind and follows a tradition started by Bill Clinton, and continued by George W. Bush.
Ramadan is dictated by the lunar calendar, and for the past two years it has taken place in late August and September.
However this year it has fallen between August 1 and 30.
Mr Obama acknowledged the longer days and hotter weather than Muslims usually have to endure during Ramadan and joked: ‘This year, Ramadan is entirely in August. That means the days are long, the weather is hot and you are hungry. So I will be brief.’