Baltimore, 25 Rabiul Akhir 1437/4 February 2016 (MINA) – In his first visit to an American mosque Wednesday, President Obama condemned “inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country.”
Speaking to Muslim Americans at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Obama called for unity among American faith communities, recognized the contributions of Muslim citizens, and asked for Muslims around the world to help combat the extremist ideologies of groups like the Islamic State.
“The first thing I want to say is two words that Muslim Americans don’t hear often enough,” Obama said. “Thank you. Thank you for serving your community. Thank you for lifting up the lives of your neighbors and for helping keep us strong and united as one American family.”
He decried the surge of threats and intimidation of American Muslim communities following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Califonia last year, Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) reported, quoting USA Today as reporting.
“Like all Americans, you’re worried about the threat of terrorism, but on top of that, as Muslim-Americans, you also have another concern, and that is your entire community so often is targeted or blamed for the violent acts of the very few,” Obama said.
“We’ve seen children bullied, we’ve seen mosques vandalized,” he said. “It’s not who we are. We’re one American family. And when any part of out family begins to feel separate or second class or targeted, it tears at the very fabric of our nation.”
Obama’s remarks continued a not-so-veiled White House campaign to rebuff the campaign rhetoric of Donald Trump, whose second-place showing in the GOP presidential nomination is fueled largely by promises to conduct surveillance on mosques and ban Muslims from entering the United States.
The speech to a Muslim audience comes amid an eight-day stretch during which he will have spoken to Jewish, Muslim and Christian audiences.
Last week, he spoke about the Holocaust at the Israeli embassy in Washington, proclaiming, “I, too, am a Jew” in a sign of Christian solidarity with the Jewish people.
Thursday, he’ll speak at the National Prayer Breakfast, a largely Christian annual gathering in Washington.
In Baltimore, Obama alluded to his own Christian faith — and also acknowledged that many Americans believe he’s actually a Muslim.
“Thomas Jefferson’s opponents tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim. So I was not the first,” Obama said, sparking laughter. “No, it’s true. Look it up. I’m in good company.”
Obama had a closed-door roundtable with 12 Muslim-American leaders Wednesday morning. They included students, activists, Quran scholars and doctors.
The Islamic Society of Baltimore, a 46-year-old mosque and Quran school in suburban Catonsville, said the president’s visit “occurs amidst increased bigoted rhetoric and violence against Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans.” (T/R07/R01)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)