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By Ira Rifkin
c. 1996 Religion News Service
    WASHINGTON (RNS) (February 29)- American Muslims marked a milestone in the growth and acceptance of Islam in the United States Tuesday (February 20) with the first presidential reception to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
"It's only fitting that just as children and families of other faiths come here to celebrate their holy days that (Muslims) come here, too," first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the family-oriented event in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House.
    The late afternoon reception marked the day Muslims call Eid al-Fitr - "the feast of the fastbreaking." It signals the end of Ramadan, a month of self-reflection and self-imposed discipline during which observant Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours.
    Ramadan, according to Muslim tradition, is the month in which Allah (God) began to reveal the Koran - the Muslim scripture to the Prophet Muhammad in seventh-century Arabia.
    Mrs. Clinton called the Eid "an American event" and said White House recognition of the holiday was "historic and overdue."
    She said Muslims - who currently number between 3 million and 5 million in the United States - were the latest immigrant group to enrich America by contributing to its religious heritage.
    About 180 Muslims attended the reception, reflecting the diversity if Islam in the United States. In addition to African-American converts - who account for about 40 per cent of the American Muslim population - immigrant Muslims from the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and elsewhere were also on hand, some in native dress.
    While some of the men and women wore traditional Muslim head coverings, others left their heads uncovered - another sign of the community's diversity.
    Kahled Saffuri, assistant executive director of the American Muslim Council, a Washington-based public policy agency, said the Clinton White House has been more welcoming to Muslims than any previous administration.
"We have asked before for recognition of the Eid, but our request always went unanswered," he said.
    At the start of Ramadan in January, President Clinton issued a statement in which he noted the importance of Ramadan to Muslims.
    At Tuesday's half-hour reception, Chaplain Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, who in 1993 became the first Muslim chaplain in the U.S. military history, presented Mrs. Clinton a copy of the Koran. After Saffuri gave her one as well, Mrs. Clinton quipped that she and President Clinton would now each have their own copy, but that daughter, Chelsea -who last year took a course in Islamic history - already had a Koran.
(Source: Christian News 2/26/1996)