Before reading parts of the President’s speech at the Baltimore mosque, readers may want to listen to how Sabah Muktar, a young, beautiful, “proud, black, Muslim, African-American…an American” introduces the President of the United States.
Click on the link below.
You need to watch this. Conservatives have been in full panic mode over Barack Obama visiting a mosque. They need to see Sabah Muktar's introduction of the President. She's just as American as any of them.
Posted by Media Matters for America on Wednesday, February 3, 2016
In what probably will be hailed by some as one of the best speeches he has ever given and in what — more than just “probably” — will be criticized and condemned by others, President Barack Obama in his first visit to a mosque in the United States rebutted the “inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim-Americans” from Republicans and much, much more.
In his speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, president Obama, according to the New York Times, “recited phrases from the Quran…praised American Muslims as a crucial part of America’s history and vital to the nation’s future…embraced Muslims in the United States as part of ‘one American family’ and implicitly criticized the Republican presidential candidates in a warning to citizens to not be bystanders to bigotry..”
The speech is long, 5,140 words — the President spoke for nearly one hour. It can be read here and viewed below.
The following excerpts are those this author believes to be the most powerful and memorable ones:
This mosque, like so many in our country, is an all-American story. You’ve been part of this city for nearly half a century. You serve thousands of families — some who’ve lived here for decades as well as immigrants from many countries who’ve worked to become proud American citizens.
So the first thing I want to say is two words that Muslim Americans don’t hear often enough — and that is, 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. We are grateful for that.
The Muslim American community remains relatively small –several million people in this country. And as a result, most Americans don’t necessarily know — or at least don’t know that they know — a Muslim personally. And as a result, many only hear about Muslims and Islam from the news after an act of terrorism, or in distorted media portrayals in TV or film, all of which gives this hugely distorted impression.
And since 9/11, but more recently, since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, you’ve seen too often people conflating the horrific acts of terrorism with the beliefs of an entire faith. And of course, recently, we’ve heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country.
Some of them are parents, and they talked about how their children were asking, are we going to be forced out of the country, or, are we going to be rounded up? Why do people treat us like that? Conversations that you shouldn’t have to have with children — not in this country. Not at this moment.
And that’s an anxiety echoed in letters I get from Muslim Americans around the country. I’ve had people write to me and say, I feel like I’m a second-class citizen. I’ve had mothers write and say, “my heart cries every night,” thinking about how her daughter might be treated at school. A girl from Ohio, 13 years old, told me, “I’m scared.” A girl from Texas signed her letter “a confused 14-year-old trying to find her place in the world.”
These are children just like mine. And the notion that they would be filled with doubt and questioning their places in this great country of ours at a time when they’ve got enough to worry about — it’s hard being a teenager already — that’s not who we are.
We’re one American family. And when any part of our family starts to feel separate or second-class or targeted, it tears at the very fabric of our nation.
So let’s start with this fact: For more than a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace. And the very word itself, Islam, comes from salam — peace…
Here’s another fact: Islam has always been part of America. Starting in colonial times, many of the slaves brought here from Africa were Muslim. And even in their bondage, some kept their faith alive. A few even won their freedom and became known to many Americans. And when enshrining the freedom of religion in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, our Founders meant what they said when they said it applied to all religions.
And perhaps the most pertinent fact, Muslim Americans enrich our lives today in every way. They’re our neighbors, the teachers who inspire our children, the doctors who trust us with our health — future doctors like Sabah. They’re scientists who win Nobel Prizes, young entrepreneurs who are creating new technologies that we use all the time. They’re the sports heroes we cheer for -— like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon. And by the way, when Team USA marches into the next Olympics, one of the Americans waving the red, white and blue will a fencing champion, wearing her hijab, Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is here today. Stand up. I told her to bring home the gold. Not to put any pressure on you.
Muslim Americans keep us safe. They’re our police and our firefighters. They’re in homeland security, in our intelligence community. They serve honorably in our armed forces — meaning they fight and bleed and die for our freedom. Some rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
Groups like al Qaeda and ISIL, they’re not the first extremists in history to misuse God’s name. We’ve seen it before, across faiths. But right now, there is a organized extremist element that draws selectively from Islamic texts, twists them in an attempt to justify their killing and their terror….
And the question then is, how do we move forward together? How do we keep our country strong and united…
First, at a time when others are trying to divide us along lines of religion or sect, we have to reaffirm that most fundamental of truths: We are all God’s children. We’re all born equal, with inherent dignity….
Second, as Americans, we have to stay true to our core values, and that includes freedom of religion for all faiths. I already mentioned our Founders, like Jefferson, knew that religious liberty is essential not only to protect religion but because religion helps strengthen our nation — if it is free, if it is not an extension of the state…
And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion — and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country — we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths. And when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up. And we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion.
We’ve got to make sure that hate crimes are punished, and that the civil rights of all Americans are upheld. And just as faith leaders, including Muslims, must speak out when Christians are persecuted around the world or when anti-Semitism is on the rise — because the fact is, is that there are Christians who are targeted now in the Middle East, despite having been there for centuries, and there are Jews who’ve lived in places like France for centuries who now feel obliged to leave because they feel themselves under assault –sometimes by Muslims. We have to be consistent in condemning hateful rhetoric and violence against everyone. And that includes against Muslims here in the United States of America.
So none of us can be silent. We can’t be bystanders to bigotry. And together, we’ve got to show that America truly protects all faiths.
Which brings me to my next point: As we protect our country from terrorism, we should not reinforce the ideas and the rhetoric of the terrorists themselves. I often hear it said that we need moral clarity in this fight. And the suggestion is somehow that if I would simply say, these are all Islamic terrorists, then we would actually have solved the problem by now, apparently.
And, by the way, the notion that America is at war with Islam ignores the fact that the world’s religions are a part of who we are. We can’t be at war with any other religion because the world’s religions are a part of the very fabric of the United States, our national character.
So the best way for us to fight terrorism is to deny these organizations legitimacy and to show that here in the United States of America, we do not suppress Islam; we celebrate and lift up the success of Muslim Americans. That’s how we show the lie that they’re trying to propagate. We shouldn’t play into terrorist propaganda. And we can’t suggest that Islam itself is at the root of the problem. That betrays our values. It alienates Muslim Americans. It’s hurtful to those kids who are trying to go to school and are members of the Boy Scouts, and are thinking about joining our military.
That kind of mindset helps our enemies. It helps our enemies recruit. It makes us all less safe. So let’s be clear about that.
Now, finally, just as all Americans have a responsibility to reject discrimination — I’ve said this before — Muslims around the world have a responsibility to reject extremist ideologies that are trying to penetrate within Muslim communities.
Muslim political leaders have to push back on the lie that the West oppresses Muslims, and against conspiracy theories that says America is the cause of every ill in the Middle East….
Like people of all religions, Muslims living their faith in a modern, pluralistic world are called upon to uphold human rights, to make sure that everyone has opportunity. That includes the aspirations of women and youth and all people. If we expect our own dignity to be respected, so must we respect the dignity of others.
So let me conclude by saying that as Muslim communities stand up for the future that you believe in, that you exhibit in your daily lives, as you teach your children, America will be your partner. We will — I will — do everything I can to lift up the multiplicity of Muslim voices that promote pluralism and peace…
Our values must guide us in this work. Engagement with Muslim American communities must never be a cover for surveillance… We can’t give in to profiling entire groups of people. There’s no one single profile of terrorists. We can’t securitize our entire relationship with Muslim Americans. We can’t deal with you solely through the prism of law enforcement. We’ve got to build trust and mutual respect. That’s how we’ll keep our communities strong and our communities united.
And here, I want to speak directly to the young people who may be listening. In our lives, we all have many identities. We are sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters. We’re classmates; Cub Scout troop members. We’re followers of our faith. We’re citizens of our country. And today, there are voices in this world, particularly over the Internet, who are constantly claiming that you have to choose between your identities — as a Muslim, for example, or an American. Do not believe them. If you’re ever wondering whether you fit in here, let me say it as clearly as I can, as President of the United States: You fit in here — right here. You’re right where you belong. You’re part of America, too. You’re not Muslim or American. You’re Muslim and American.
Don’t grow cynical. Don’t respond to ignorance by embracing a world view that suggests you must choose between your faith and your patriotism. Don’t believe that you have to choose between your best impulses and somehow embrace a world view that pits us against each other — or, even worse, glorifies violence. Understand your power to bring about change. Stay engaged in your community. Help move our country forward — your country forward.
And as we go forward, I want every Muslim American to remember you are not alone. Your fellow Americans stand with you — just as Sabah described her friends after she decided that she was going to start wearing a hijab. That’s not unusual. Because just as so often we only hear about Muslims after a terrorist attack, so often we only hear about Americans’ response to Muslims after a hate crime has happened, we don’t always hear about the extraordinary respect and love and community that so many Americans feel.
Remember the Muslim Americans in Boston who reached out to victims of the Marathon bombing; the Muslim Americans across the country who raised money for the families of San Bernardino; the Muslim Americans in Chattanooga who honored our fallen servicemembers, one of them saying, “in the name of God, the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, God bless our fallen heroes.
We are one American family. We will rise and fall together. It won’t always be easy. There will be times where our worst impulses are given voice. But I believe that ultimately, our best voices will win out. And that gives me confidence and faith in the future.
After more than 200 years, our blended heritage, the patchwork quilt which is America, that is not a weakness, that is one of our greatest strengths. It’s what makes us a beacon to the world. It’s what led that mother who wrote to me — the one who worries about her young daughter — it led her to end her letter with hope, despite her fears. She said, “I still believe in one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
May God’s peace be upon you. May God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much, everybody.
Lead photo: President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.