Diversity and Unity in the Muslim WorldAmbassador Randall L. Tobias, U. S. Director of Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID
Address at USAID Iftaar Dinner
October 17, 2006
Thank you, Jim [Kunder]. Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be here with you tonight to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. It is particularly fitting that we should be gathered in this room
Thank you, Jim [Kunder]. Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be here with you tonight to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. It is particularly fitting that we should be gathered in this room—the Point Four conference room here at USAID.
This room takes its name from President Truman’s Point Four Program, which—as those of us who work here at USAID are well aware—established foreign assistance as one of the four foreign policy objectives of the United States during the difficult days that followed World War II.
Today—as in the late 1940s—we find ourselves in a period of great change, faced with great challenges. In the years just after Secretary Marshall launched his famed Marshall Plan, a unified, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Europe seemed impossible. Yet, looking back half a century later, the eventual success of efforts to rebuild Europe now seem inevitable.
Watching the daily news and reading about conflict and loss of life in the Muslim world, for many, makes the prospect of a unified, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Middle East seem beyond our reach. Yet together, we can plant the seeds that will sow peace and prosperity across the Muslim world.
For the last several weeks, observant Muslims across the globe have spent time in prayer and contemplation—no doubt praying for the peace we seek. In this time, Muslims look inward as well, as they take time to enrich family and community ties. Ramadan is a time to remember the needs of others, and to acknowledge with profound gratitude the blessings in one’s own life.
The theme we’ve chosen to highlight for Ramadan this year is "diversity and unity." Throughout the world there are an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims, making the religion the second-largest after Christianity. In the United States alone, there are more than 6 million Muslims. They are both recent immigrants to our country and second- and third-generation citizens. Their backgrounds—Arab, Latino, Asian, European, African and African-American—are diverse. Here at USAID—and indeed, across the United States Government—we are proud of our diverse workplace and our many Muslim colleagues, some of whom are here with us this evening.
Diversity is a hallmark of the Muslim world. Muslims come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, and they embrace a variety of cultural traditions, social structures and lifestyles. Yet, that which unites Muslims and non-Muslims alike is far greater than that which would divide us. All human beings—whether Sunni or Shia, Christian or Jewish, whether they call Tajikistan or Sudan or Indonesia or Washington, D.C. home—ultimately want the same things. We all seek a better life for our children.
And those of us who work in foreign assistance are driven by the belief that peace, prosperity, health, education, and the freedom to provide for themselves and their families are the aspiration of human beings everywhere. Providing the opportunity to achieve those aspirations is what U.S. foreign assistance is all about. Muslim citizens around the world have seen our commitment first hand.
For instance, USAID has missions in 27 of the world’s 49 countries where more than half of the population practices Islam. And in recent years, our work with Muslim populations—to promote better understanding among our cultures, to accelerate economic development, to encourage effective governance—has increased dramatically.
As President Bush reminded us in his Ramadan message this year, the holiday is an ideal time to remember the common values that bind us together. Our society is enriched by our Muslim citizens and the global Muslim community, whose commitments to faith reminds us of the gift of religious freedom here in the United States. And as we assemble in fellowship to mark the month of Ramadan and this Iftar dinner, we here at USAID reaffirm the ties of friendship and partnership that unite us. That partnership will be the key to ensuring that today’s most daunting challenges become tomorrow’s inevitable successes.
Thank you very much.
Released on October 25, 2006