Obama hosts Iftaar at White House; praises Islam

President Barack Obama makes remarks during an Iftaar party in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. AP

"Together, we have a responsibility to foster engagement grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect. And that's one of my fundamental commitments as President, both at home and abroad," Obama said at the Iftaar, the meal that breaks the daily fast during Ramadan, last evening – his first at the White House.

"That is central to the new beginning that I've sought between the United States and Muslims around the world. And that is a commitment that we can renew once again during this holy season," Obama said before a host of diplomats including Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar, lawmakers, his cabinet colleagues and eminent American Muslim leaders.

"Tonight, we celebrate a great religion, and its commitment to justice and progress. We honour the contributions of America's Muslims, and the positive example that so many of them set through their own lives. And we rededicate ourselves to the work of building a better and more hopeful world," he said.

Ramadan, a monthlong period of prayer, reflection and sunrise-to-sunset fasts, began on August 22 in most of the Islamic world.

Nearly two dozen Ambassadors were invited to attend the White House Iftaar wherein the menu included dates, kitchen garden green salad, spiced marcona almonds, Charlie’s honey vinaigrette, organic chicken, potato and leek puree, late summer peas, kataifi wafers, oranges and lemon sorbet.

Quoting from one of the statements of the legendary American boxer Muhammad Ali, the US President said: "Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams -- they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do -- they all contain truths."

They all contain truths, Obama said. Among those truths are the pursuit of peace and the dignity of all human beings. That must always form the basis upon which we find common ground, he said.

"And that is why I am so pleased that we are joined tonight not only by so many outstanding Muslim Americans and representatives of the diplomatic corps, but people of many faiths -- Christians, Jews, and Hindus -- along with so many prominent Muslims," Obama said.

White House dinners marking the holy month are nothing new. Former President George W Bush held Iftaars during his eight years in office.

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