President Barack Obama praised Islam as an integral part of America, as he feted prominent US Muslims at an Iftar dinner marking the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
"For well over a billion Muslims, Ramadan is a time of intense devotion and reflection," Obama said, in remarks welcoming his guests in the State Dining Room of the White House.
"Tonight's Iftar is a ritual that is being carried out this Ramadan at kitchen tables and mosques in all 50 states," Obama said.
"Islam as we know is part of America. Like the broader American citizenry, the American Muslim community is one of extraordinary dynamism and diversity.
"On this occasion, we celebrate the holy month of Ramadan and we also celebrate how much Muslims have enriched America and its culture in ways both large and small," the president said.
Among the guests Obama praised was Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a first-year student at the University of Memphis who scored more points than any other girl or boy in the history of high school basketball in the state of Massachusetts.
"She recently told a reporter, 'I would like to inspire a lot of young Muslim girls if they want to play basketball. Anything is possible, they can do it too,'" said Obama, who has a well-known love of the sport.
"Bilquis is an inspiration not simply to Muslim girls, she is an inspiration to all of us."
The president also recognized the first two Muslim lawmakers in the US Congress, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson.
In a message marking Ramadan last week, Obama pledged "concrete actions" to renew ties with Islamic countries, less than three months after his historic address to the Muslim world in Cairo.
"I want to reiterate my commitment to a new beginning between America and Muslims around the world," Obama said in a video address posted as the world's estimated 1.5 billion Muslims prepared for a month of fasting and reflection.
The president, who has Muslim heritage on his father's side of his family, also pledged "unyielding" support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and to "responsibly end the war in Iraq."
Islam's fasting month began last month in most of the Arab world and Iran.
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