“You’ve seen too often people conflating the horrific acts of terrorism with the beliefs of an entire faith.”
Today, President Obama gave a speech in his first visit to a mosque, the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in the United States. This came as a response to the heavy anti-Muslim rhetoric being tossed around by GOP presidential hopefuls the most notable of which is Donald trump who has said he would consider closing mosques and has proposed a ban on all Muslims. President Obama stresses that this rhetoric is not “who we are,” and he continues to say that Americans cannot be complicit in this hatred toward Islam anymore.
“Together, we’ve got to show that America truly protects all faiths. As we protect our country from terrorism, we should not reinforce the ideas and the rhetoric of the terrorists themselves.”
The President calls on “moral clarity” during this time and to not slam radical Islam while also partaking in the same tactics. He continues to cite many conversations with parents who say their children are afraid of violence or being deported because of their faith. No doubt, many Muslim communities feel threatened with the large amount of anti-Muslim statements, the publicity that they garner, and the general support that they have among the extremist base of the Republican Party.
President Obama is not a stranger to this problem. He has cited on several occasions that the War on Terror and the policies of George W. Bush have severely damaged relations both with the Muslim world and also with American Muslims. For many, the War on Terror has been synonymous with a War on Islam. This has only been exacerbated with the threat of ISIS, increasing media propagation of Islamic terror, and several attacks that received massive amounts of media coverage such as the recent San Bernardino shooting. The increasingly hateful rhetoric as a reaction to these incidents, as well as the outright violence that ensues, has damaged American Muslim’s trust in the government and its post-9/11 policies.
This speech is reminiscent of the ‘New Beginning’ speech in 2009 in which President Obama called on all faiths to join together. He famously said:
“There’s one rule that lies at the heart of every religion—that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples—a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in billions around the world. It’s a faith in other people.”
Hopefully after today’s historical visit, Americans of all faiths can learn to share in their commonalities as Americans and not hold onto the fears that have isolated Muslim communities.
You can watch today’s speech here.