Obama commemorates start of Ramadan

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Obama also paid tribute to the Arab Spring, the wave of populist pro-democratic uprising in the region. "This year, Ramadan holds special meaning for those citizens in the Middle East and North Africa who are courageously achieving democracy and self-determination and for those who are still struggling to achieve their universal rights," he said. "The United States continues to stand with those who seek the chance to decide their own destiny, to live free from fear and violence, and to practice their faith freely."

The president said the religious holiday was "reminder to people of all faiths of our common humanity and the commitment to justice, equality, and compassion shared by all great faiths."

The White House will host an iftar dinner, the traditional evening meal observed during Ramadan. Obama has participated in similar gatherings every year of his presidency. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif,) also commemorated the holiday in a statement Friday. 

"For American Muslims and Muslims around the world, the holy month of Ramadan is a time of family, and reflection; fasting, prayer, and discipline; sacrifice and spirituality," said Pelosi. "It is also an opportunity for all Americans to celebrate the tradition of pluralism, tolerance, diversity, and religious freedom embedded in the very fabric of our history."

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