President Barack Obama said Wednesday he wanted to assure Muslim-Americans that they were an important part of the country’s successes despite the rhetoric coming from some Republican presidential candidates.
Obama delivered his comments in Maryland after meeting with Muslim leaders at the Islamic Society of Baltimore. It marked his first visit to an American mosque as commander-in-chief.
He said that he had two words for Muslim-Americans that he said they don’t get to hear often enough: “Thank you,” both for keeping the country together and serving their neighbors.
He noted that this is “a time of concern” and “of some fear” for Muslim communities across the United States, attributing some of it to the “inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim-Americans that has no place in our country.”
“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,” he said.
Obama confronted the anti-Muslim rhetoric espoused by some of the Republican presidential candidates before. Obama condemned such comments at his final State of the Union speech as “just wrong.” He also addressed attitudes toward American Muslims after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, saying that the Muslim community should be embraced and that “freedom is more powerful than fear.”
Obama said Wednesday that Muslims were part of the wave of immigrants that helped improve the country in its early years and have gone on to become architects, scientists, and service members.
He noted that there were those who have conflated acts of terrorism with the beliefs of the Muslim faith, but addressed the issue as it related to the community.
“Even as the overwhelming majority — and I repeat the overwhelming majority — of the world’s Muslims embrace Islam as a source of peace, it is undeniable that a small fraction of Muslims propagate a perverted version of Islam,” Obama said. “This is the truth.”
Obama said people of all faiths have a responsibility to defend each other’s religious freedom.
“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 politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias and targets people because of religion,” Obama said.
He said that “none” of us can be silent and be “bystanders to bigotry.”
“Together we’ve got to show that America truly protects all faiths,” he said. “I will do everything I can to lift up the multiplicity of Muslim voices that promote pluralism and peace.”