WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama spoke out against religious prejudice, saying Americans stand united in rejecting the targeting of any religious or ethnic group.

“We affirm that whatever our faith, we’re all one family,” Obama said at the traditional Iftar dinner. Several members of the diplomatic community, lawmakers and Muslim Americans were present at the event. Obama said the Iftar dinner is a reminder of “the freedoms that bind us together as Americans,” including the “inviolable right to practice our faiths freely.”

He recognised a number of young Muslim American activists in the audience, including Samantha Elauf, who successfully won a Supreme Court case to defend her right to wear a hijab, or headscarf, after she was rejected for a sales job at a retail clothing store. “She was determined to defend the right to wear a hijab - to have the same opportunities as everybody else,” Obama said.” She went all the way to the Supreme Court - which I didn’t do at her age - and she won.”

Obama also recognised the refugee crisis triggered by the ongoing violent uprisings in the Middle East, as well as the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims escaping persecution in their country. “So tonight, we keep in our prayers those who are suffering around the world, including those marking Ramadan in areas of conflict and deprivation and hunger.

The people of Yemen and Libya, who are seeking an end to ongoing violence and instability. Those fleeing war and hardship in boats across the Mediterranean. The people of Gaza, still recovering from last year’s conflict. The Rohingya in Myanmar, including migrants at sea, whose human rights must be upheld,” he said. Obama spoke of three young Muslims who were killed Feb 10 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the nine black church members killed last week in Charleston, South Carolina. “As Americans, we insist that nobody should be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, who they love, how they worship,” he said. “We stand united against these hateful acts.”