CAIRO – Leading American Muslim organizations welcomed President Barack Obama’s address at the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Wednesday, February 3, thanking him for his commitment to combat bigotry and “inexcusable political rhetoric” targeting the religious minority.
“President Obama’s address was inspiring, but also a reminder that we must continue to engage and serve our community as way to combat Islamophobia and strengthen the fabric of our nation,” Azhar Azeez, President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), said in a press release.
Azeez was one of leading Muslim figures who welcomed President Obama at the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB) on Wednesday.
During the remarkable visit, the first for Obama to an American mosque as president, he called on Americans to embrace their “common humanity” and to reject the “inexcusable political rhetoric” he said is emanating from the presidential campaign trail.
Obama spoke of the role Islam has played in the nation’s history, and decried a rise in rhetoric and violence directed against Muslims since the deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
He called on the religion’s leaders, meanwhile, to speak out against extremism.
“We’re one American family,” Obama told the mosque 100 audience.
“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.”
ISNA praised President Obama’s address “as step in a positive direction and his visit as a historical moment.”
“President Obama’s message highlighted the contributions of Muslim Americans as a vital part of the American community throughout the nation’s history,” the group said in the statement.
“We hope the address becomes a launching pad for dialogue to move the nation towards the pluralistic society the Founding Fathers envisioned. ISNA encourages friends of other faiths and more elected officials to visit mosques across the nation.”
No to Islamophobia
Similar praise was echoed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.
“We welcome President Obama’s historic visit and applaud his remarks both rejecting anti-Muslim rhetoric and reminding our fellow American’s about Islam’s long history in our nation and about constitutional protections guaranteeing religious freedom,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
“In his remarks, the president acknowledged the many contributions of Muslims in all aspects of American life.”
Awad said CAIR and other Muslim organizations have for many years called on the president to visit an American mosque.
He noted that President Obama also said “engagement with Muslim American communities must never be a cover for surveillance” and stated that criticism of American foreign policy is a “healthy tradition.”
“The president’s first visit to an American mosque is a significant step in the right direction and will hopefully encourage our nation’s political and religious leaders to join him in pushing back against rising Islamophobia,” said CAIR Maryland Outreach Manager Zainab Chaudry, who was invited to today’s event at the Maryland mosque.
Last month, CAIR welcomed the president’s remarks in his State of the Union address rejecting Islamophobia, particularly in the political process.