- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 22, 2009

Continuing his administration’s outreach efforts to the Islamic world, President Obama has recorded a video greeting to Muslims as they begin their annual holy season of Ramadan.

The president used a few Arabic words and described in the video the origin of the holiday and its importance, noting it is a time of festivity but also of devotion and reflection.

The holiday is marked with a month of fasting from dawn to sunset, when Muslims break their fast with a prayer.

“These rituals remind us of the principles we hold in common and of Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings,” said Mr. Obama in the video.

Earlier this year Mr. Obama offered a similar message of friendship in a Web video to mark Nowruz, the Iranian new year.

That video kicked off a full effort to engage with Muslims, with Mr. Obama delivering major speeches in Ankara and Cairo seeking a new way forward.

Mr. Obama addressed the “new beginning” he has proposed in his Ramadan message, saying it must be “borne out in a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another, and to seek common ground.”

Mr. Obama said the United States has heard from Muslims around the globe in response to his speeches and the outreach done on social networking Web sites, adding that the nation is going after “concrete actions that will make a difference over time.”

He said America wants to partner with the Islamic world for expanding educational exchange programs and on science and technology collaboration, adding that the U.S. is working closely to prepare for the global pandemic of the H1N1 virus.

“All of these efforts are aimed at advancing our common aspirations - to live in peace and security, to get an education and to work with dignity, to love our families, our communities and our God,” he said. “We cannot change things overnight, but we can honestly resolve to do what must be done, while setting off in a new direction - toward the destination that we seek for ourselves, and for our children. That is the journey that we must travel together.”

He also discussed foreign policy, saying that the United States is committed to “responsibly ending the war in Iraq” and fighting violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The president said he is “unyielding” in supporting a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. He also mentioned Ramadan in a brief statement about the elections in Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama, who spoke to rabbis and left-leaning faith groups about health care this week, said in the video that fasting is a tradition observed by many, including members of his own Christian faith.

He said it’s “a way to bring people closer to God, and to those among us who cannot take their next meal for granted.”

“The support that Muslims provide to others recalls our responsibility to advance opportunity and prosperity for people everywhere. For all of us must remember that the world we want to build - and the changes that we want to make - must begin in our own hearts, and our own communities,” he said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations thanked the president for the message, saying his mention of Muslims participating in the summer White House community service drive United We Serve was welcomed.

Rashad Hussain, deputy associate White House counsel, said over the course of the Muslim holy month the White House will “highlight the perspectives of various faiths on fasting and profile faith-based organizations making real impacts in American cities and towns.”

In his message, subtitled in Arabic on YouTube, Mr. Obama wished Muslims a “blessed month” and closed with, “May God’s peace be upon you.”

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