U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday praised American Muslims for enriching the nation’s culture at a dinner to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramzan.

The President joined Cabinet secretaries, members of the diplomatic corps and lawmakers to pay tribute to what he called “a great religion and its commitment to justice and progress.” Attendees included Congress’ two Muslim members — Representatives Keith Ellison and Andre Carson — as well as ambassadors from Islamic nations and Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. Mr. Obama shared the story of Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, an invited guest, who broke a state record for most career points as a Massachusetts high school student. “As an honour student, as an athlete on her way to Memphis, Bilqis is an inspiration not simply to Muslim girls — she’s an inspiration to all of us,” he said.

Mr. Obama also noted the contributions of Muhammad Ali, who was not in attendance, though the President borrowed a quote from famous boxer, explaining religion. “A few years ago,” Mr. Obama said, “he explained this view — and this is part of why he’s The Greatest — saying, ‘Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams — they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do — they all contain truths.’” White House dinners marking the holy month are nothing new. The former President, George W. Bush, held iftars during his eight years in office.

Mr. Obama also released a video message to Muslims before the start to Ramzan. In it, he said Ramzan’s rituals were a reminder of the principles Muslims and Christians have in common, including advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

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