Skip Global Navigation to Main Content
Skip Breadcrumb Navigation

Washington File Listing

Rice Welcomes Muslim Generosity as Reflection of Ramadan Spirit

Secretary of state hosts Muslims at State Department iftar dinner

In recent months, Muslims around the world have demonstrated the qualities of generosity and benevolence that are at the heart of religious traditions surrounding the holy month of Ramadan, according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“[I]n the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Muslim nations extended some of the most generous offers of support that we received,” Rice told guests at the State Department’s seventh annual Ramadan Iftar dinner October 25.  “And after the recent earthquake in South Asia, the entire world watched as thousands of Muslims, deep in the observance of Ramadan, led the relief effort without breaking their fast.”

The secretary said that Muslims in all nations deserve the basic human rights to which all people aspire: “the right to live without oppression, the right to worship without persecution, and the right to think and speak and assemble without wrongful retribution.”

The United States supports “people of every culture and race and religion who wish to make their own decisions and choose their own governments and speak their own minds,” she added.

Rice said that compassion, cooperation and charity, as reflected in Islam and other faiths, are fundamental elements of every society, but especially democracies, which depend on the respectful exchange of ideas.

Following is the transcript of the secretary’s remarks:

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
October 25, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
At The Annual State Department Iftaar Dinner

October 25, 2005
Benjamin Franklin Room Washington, D.C.

(7:18 p.m. EDT)

SECRETARY RICE:  Good evening.  Ramadan Kareem.  Ladies and gentlemen, I am honored that distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps could be here this evening and I am very pleased at the representation of our civil society and faith-based communities.  Thank you very much for joining me tonight.

As a former academic, I appreciate that so many professors and students are also with us here today, especially the Fulbrighters and other visiting scholars.  There is really nothing more important that we do than the exchange of young people between countries.

And of course, let me extend a warm greeting to the many members of the national and international media who are joining us as well.

Welcome, all of you, to our Annual State Department Iftaar Dinner.  I want to thank you, Imam Hendi, for that really beautiful and moving invocation.  We will always remember the spirit of Ramadan as you talk to us about it.

In the past few years, I've had the chance to attend several Iftaar Dinners that President Bush has hosted at the White House.  These meals have given me the opportunity to speak with many Muslim men and women and to gain a deeper understanding of the month of Ramadan.  I have learned that Ramadan is characterized by sacrifice and abiding faith, by prayer and self-reflection and by compassion and profound joy.

I've also learned that Ramadan inspires more than a billion Muslims all across the world to renew their bonds to family and friends, to neighbors and colleagues, and most of all to God.

We in America know the benevolence that is at the heart of Islam.  We've seen it in many ways.  And most recently, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Muslim nations extended some of the most generous offers of support that we received.  And after the recent earthquake in South Asia, the entire world watched as thousands of Muslims, deep in the observance of Ramadan, led the relief effort without breaking their fast.

We in America also know that Muslims, like people of all faiths and people of no faith at all, possess certain basic rights that arise from our equal human dignity.  Among these are the right to live without oppression, the right to worship without persecution, and the right to think and speak and assemble without wrongful retribution.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are not American rights or Western rights.  They are human rights, unanimously desired and universally deserved.  Muslims freely exercise their rights as American citizens and Muslims have claimed their rights throughout Northern Africa and Western Europe and Central Asia and Southeast Asia.

President Bush believes that when states guarantee the basic rights of their citizens, our world grows more just and more secure.  We in America support people of every culture and race and religion who wish to make their own decisions and choose their own governments and speak their own minds.  We know that free choices may produce disagreement, but listening to one another and exchanging ideas respectfully and cooperating wherever and whenever we can, this is the essence of democracy and it is also the mission of diplomacy.

America supports the democratic aspirations of all people, not because we think ourselves perfect; to the contrary, it is precisely because we are imperfect, with a long history of failures and false starts, that we cherish democracy and support others who embrace its challenges.

This weekend, I returned home to Birmingham, Alabama.  I took with me Foreign Minister Jack Straw of the United Kingdom and we returned a bit to the Birmingham of my childhood, a Birmingham in which rights and freedom were denied to people of my color.  It was a place in which it was very clear that we had not come very far from the time when the Founding Fathers said, "We the people," and didn't mean me.

But I saw another Birmingham, too, a Birmingham that had been launched by the great pioneer who we lost last night, Rosa Parks, a woman of enormous courage, a woman of gentle spirit but of a very tough backbone and a wonderful heart, a heart the size of America.

And I visited, too, the Birmingham that she launched, a Birmingham that is starting to come together, where faiths are starting to come together, where people of different colors and different ethnicities are starting to come together.  And I thought to myself that it is a wonderful thing for the human spirit when human beings overcome their history and their legacy of oppression and failures to make a new start.

So, of all nations, America has no cause for false pride and we have every reason for humility.  But we also have every reason to believe that when people rise up for the universal principles of democracy, they will not be denied.

So, on behalf of all the men and women of the State Department, thank you for honoring us with your presence this evening.  Thank you for what you do every day as people of a great faith, of one of the world's great religions, of a religion of peace and love.  Thank you for spending this important holiday evening with us.  Ramadan Kareem.  (Applause.)

Now I am supposed to tell you that dinner's not quite over.  There will be coffee and dessert served, so we'll relax now and have coffee and dessert.

Created: 25 Oct 2005 Updated: 25 Oct 2005