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Obama on Ramadan: Reject 'Voices That Seek to Limit Our Religious Freedom'

President Obama ushered in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan today by stressing that the United States is “blessed with Muslim communities as diverse as our nation itself.”

“For many, this month is an opportunity to focus on reflection and spiritual growth, forgiveness, patience and resilience, compassion for those less fortunate, and unity across communities. Each lesson is profound on its own, and taken together forms a harmonious whole,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

“As Muslim Americans celebrate the holy month, I am reminded that we are one American family. I stand firmly with Muslim American communities in rejection of the voices that seek to divide us or limit our religious freedoms or civil rights,” he said. “I stand committed to safeguarding the civil rights of all Americans no matter their religion or appearance. I stand in celebration of our common humanity and dedication to peace and justice for all.”

The president added that “far too many Muslims may not be able to observe Ramadan from the comfort of their own homes this year or afford to celebrate Eid with their children.”

“We must continue working together to alleviate the suffering of these individuals. This sacred time reminds us of our common obligations to uphold the dignity of every human being,” Obama said. “We will continue to welcome immigrants and refugees into our nation, including those who are Muslim.”

He noted that the White House will host an Eid celebration at the end of the month. “I can think of no better way to mark my administration’s last celebration of Ramadan as president than to honor the contributions of Muslims in America and across the world for Eid. Ramadan Kareem.”

Last year, Obama held an iftar dinner a week into Ramadan to break the daily fast at sundown; his guests included Samantha Elauf, who won a Supreme Court case against Abercrombie & Fitch after being told that her hijab didn’t conform to the company’s policy of how employees should look. Dozens of diplomats from countries with significant Muslim populations also attended the dinner, as well as the two Muslim members of Congress: Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.).

In a separate short statement, Secretary of State John Kerry called Ramadan “a sacred period of prayer and fasting, offering hospitality, and remembering those who are less fortunate.”

“Through our embassies and consulates around the world, we recognize these important values through Ramadan events, which demonstrate our commitment to promoting social cohesion, diversity, and welcome within our communities,” Kerry said. “During this month of peace and renewal, we wish the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world a joyful Ramadan Kareem.”