Pentagon Hosts Iftar Dinner; Panetta Lauds 'Interfaith Sanctuary'
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta honored Muslim Americans who have been fighting for America on the front lines at the Pentagon's Iftar last night.
"I'm pleased that there are many senior government officials from the Pentagon and from the Department who are here and who participate in this dinner," he said. "...We're grateful to be able to host this Iftar dinner at the Pentagon and share in one of the great traditions of the Muslim faith."
Panetta thanked the chaplains for "maintaining a very important interfaith sanctuary for the Pentagon, for this Department, and for this community."
He compared the experience of Muslims coming to America with his parents coming over from Italy. "In this country, my parents knew that they could find the freedom to be able to not only hold onto their faith, but to pass their faith on to their children and so my brother and I were raised as Catholics because my parents had a deep faith in Catholic religion," the defense secretary said. "Like millions of others – including Muslim Americans – my parents were drawn to this country because they knew they would have the freedom to practice their faith."
Panetta gave a special welcome to guest Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), one of two Muslims serving in Congress. "We appreciate the opportunity to be able to sit with you and for this evening be able to share your faith," he said.
"So, as we take part in this Iftar let us celebrate a great religion," Panetta said. "...Ramadan Kareem, thank you all for being here tonight and may God bless you."