President Barack Obama visited a mosque in Baltimore on Wednesday, Feb. 3, for the first time in his presidency to make a plea for tolerance.
Obama visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore and engaged in a discussion with its members about tolerance and religious freedom.
In a statement prior to the visit, the White House said the visit is intended “to celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life.”
Top statements regarding American Muslims
- You are not Muslim or American. You are Muslim AND American.
- Citing instances of “inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that have no place in our country,” Obama sought to show solidarity with a community that has been thrust into the campaign debate over national security. “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,” Obama said. “It’s a challenge to our values, and that means we have much work to do.”
- There are over 5,000 Muslim Americansin the U.S. military, and President Obama made it clear he appreciates their service.
- Since the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, hate crimes against Muslims tripled, and the president urged Americans to take a stand against this.
- President Obama acknowledged many Muslims don’t feel safe right now and explained why that’s not OK.
- Critiquing intolerance in some Muslim societies, Obama said: “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance… This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it’s being challenged in many different ways. Among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith.”
- Perhaps Obama’s most famous speech pertaining to Muslims was in 2009 at Cairo university in Cairo, Egypt, meant to ease strained relations with the Muslim world after taking office. “Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”
- “So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.” – Cairo University in 2009
- In a 2007 piece for The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote, “Mr. Obama recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them with a first-rate accent. In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (it’ll give Alabama voters heart attacks), Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as- “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”
- “Islam has always been part of America”-President Obama’s address welcoming Ramadan in 2010
- “Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice.”- General Assembly of the United Nations, 2014
- “In the wake of 9/11, my meetings with Arab and Pakistani Americans, for example, have a more urgent quality, for the stories of detentions and FBI questioning and hard stares from neighbors have shaken their sense of security and belonging. They have been reminded that the history of immigration in this country has a dark underbelly; they need specific assurances that their citizenship really means something that America has learned the right lessons from the Japanese internment during World War II, and that I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.” – From President Obama’s book, Audacity of Hope