(Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Friday called Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an "American patriot" after a group of Republican lawmakers accused her of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political organization.
"She has been nothing less than extraordinary in representing our country and the democratic values that we hold dear," Obama said at a White House Iftar dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
"The American people owe her a debt of gratitude because Huma is an American patriot and an example of what we need in this country -- more public servants with her sense of decency, her grace and her generosity of spirit."
In June, Representative Michele Bachmann along with four other Republican lawmakers questioned Abedin's security clearance in a letter to the State Department's inspector general. They suggested members of her family had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the writers said may be seeking access to high levels of the U.S. government.
"If my family members were associated with Hamas, a terrorist organization, that alone could be sufficient to disqualify me from getting a security clearance," Bachmann said on conservative host Glenn Beck's talk show.
Abedin, a Muslim, was seated on Obama's right at the dinner and appeared visibly moved as the president spoke to a room full of religious leaders, elected officials and diplomats.
Senior Republicans in Congress, including House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and former presidential candidate John McCain, have rallied to Abedin's defense in recent weeks.
Greater participation of female athletes at the Olympics was another focus of Friday's dinner. Obama noted that for the first time in Olympic history each team included a woman.
"One of the reasons is that every team from a Muslim-majority country now includes women as well," he said.
Since taking office, Obama has focused on strengthening ties with the Muslim world. At a speech in Cairo in 2009 he called for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world" based on "mutual interest and mutual respect."
Friday's dinner takes place amid a time of seminal change in the Middle East - home to over 300 million of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims. Over the past year, revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have felled decades of authoritarian rule, tensions with Iran continue to escalate and a bloody 17-month uprising in Syria shows no signs of abating.
Thomas Jefferson held the first known White House Iftar in 1805, a sunset dinner in honor of Tunisia's envoy in Washington.
Highlights from Friday's menu two centuries later included greens from the White House kitchen garden with a tarragon dressing, a spiced Middle Eastern crisp bread called lavash, thyme roasted chicken and sesame halvah crunch for dessert.
I've stated elsewhere that Huma Abedin is not the problem, Hillary Clinton and her ilk are. No outside country or group has the power to take America down, but an insidious inside threat, like cancer, does have that capability. The Obama administration, Hillary and others in our government represent that cancer and they are the threat we must address. The Huma Abedin's of the world are inconsequential without the American traitors in our midst who empower them.
Tell that to the muslim brotherhood in my neck of the woods.
More taquiiya from ol' Obozo.
She's married to Weiner that terrorist enough!!! Looney Tunes
Traitors in our government and time to get rid of them all. All muslims are the problem and so is islam with their sharia law.
And when the Constitution has been properly restored, then Sharia Law and the Muslims in this country need to be rounded up and put on planes back to the Middle East where they can ROT IN HELL.
In the report, reference is made to security clearance, the heart of the matter. Have we all forgotten that President Obama could not get security clearance under DOD regulations with the unauthenticated BCs he has provided? So, security clearance is not important, obviously. Change? Yeah, like in change the rules.