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USAID Annual Iftaar Dinner: Celebrating Compassion and Equity

Henrietta H. Fore, Acting Director of Foreign Assistance and Acting USAID Administrator
Remarks at USAID Annual Iftaar Dinner
Washington, DC
October 4, 2007

Ramadan Kareem. It is a special honor to break bread with you tonight during this holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan, a sacred time for Muslims in America and Muslims around the world, is a time of fasting, prayers, worship, and contemplation. It is a time to enrich family and community ties.

The discipline of fasting, during this month, brings awareness of others who suffer privation as their daily lot. For the more comfortably situated, it also brings awareness of one's blessings and profound gratitude for the Divine Author of them. It is a month of zakat when the generosity of charitable and hospitable peoples spontaneously rises and overflows. And at the bountiful Iftaar meal, love too overflows for the family, friends, and neighbors there gathered.

We Americans take great pride in our Muslim community which represents peoples from 80 different countries. Today, there are approximately seven million Muslims in the United States and they worship at over 1,200 mosques. This is about the same size community as the Hispanic community was 25 years ago.

It is worth noting that while 44 percent of Americans have a Bachelor's degree, 67 percent of American Muslims have a Bachelor's degree. And the variance for Advanced Degrees is even greater. Muslim Americans are disproportionately represented as academics, in the higher ranks of the corporate world, and in our professional classes.

This growing Muslim presence in our country is a great and welcome change. The strength of this country lies in its diversity, and we are enriched by your presence. I also believe that our Muslim American colleagues gathered here have a special role to play as ambassadors of peaceful change in today's world and represent our country's most important bridge to Islamic communities beyond our shores.

It is perhaps not generally known, but the majority of USAID funding goes to countries with a predominately Muslim population. Our presence is extensive. In fact, the Agency has missions in 27 of the 49 countries that have more than 50 percent Muslim population. And, Foreign Service Nationals, in these Missions, are contributing enormously to efforts to bring peace and opportunity to the peoples of these countries. As Acting Administrator of USAID, I want you to know that I am personally committed to strengthening these partnerships.

As I look across the room tonight I see individuals, both men and women, who are prominent in academia, government, faith-based institutions, the arts, and civil society. Our guest of honor, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, the President of the Islamic Society of North America, is one such woman. But I also want to recognize the other women in the room who are making changes in their societies, both here and abroad. And, I want to recognize the mothers here, for the example you are setting for your children is planting the seeds of good deeds for the next generation.

Ladies and gentlemen, we gather here tonight in the cause of advancing peace and tolerance and prosperity and freedom and faith. As we celebrate this special Iftaar this evening, we hope to reaffirm the ties of friendship and partnership that unite all of us, as religious peoples and the sons and daughters of the Abrahamic faiths.

May the spirit of Ramadan and the noble ideals you profess lead the way to our common future.

Thank you all. Ramadan Mubarak.

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