Acknowledging that across the US it is a time of concern and fear for Muslims, US President Barack Obama today reiterated his commitment to “freedom of religion” and asked his countrymen to show that America truly protects all faiths.
“The best way to fight terrorism is to show the US does not suppress Islam and refute lies to the contrary,” Obama said in his historic address to Muslim community from a mosque in Baltimore, Maryland.
In his first visit to a mosque inside the US, Obama referred to the recent political rhetoric against Muslims in the country, where Christians are in majority, and said that the Americans cannot be silent bystanders to bigotry against any faith.
“I know that in Muslim communities across our country this is a time of concern and, frankly, a time of some fear. Like all Americans, you’re worried about the threat of terrorism, but on top of that, as Muslim-Americans, you also have another concern, and that is your entire community so often is targeted or blamed for the violent acts of the very few,” Obama said in his address to the Muslim American community.
“An attack on one’s faith is an attack on all our faiths,” Obama said as he mentioned recent attacks against Muslim community and also cited those of Sikh-Americans who looks like them. Americans must speak up when any group is targeted, he added.
“We have to respect the fact that we have freedom of religion,” he said.
At the same time, the US President asked the Muslim community to reject extremism and terrorism.
Pushing back at critics who say he should talk about “Islamic terrorists”, he said that, “We shouldn’t play into terrorist propaganda.”
“As we protect our country from terrorism, we should not reinforce the ideas and the rhetoric of terrorists themselves,” Obama said, adding that groups like Islamic State militant group are desperate for legitimacy.
“We must never give them that legitimacy,” he said.
In an apparent reference to recent political rhetoric, he opposed the idea of religious profiling.
“Engagement with Muslim Americans communities must never be a cover for surveillance,” he added.
“As we go forward, I want every Muslim American to remember that...your fellow Americans stand with you,” Obama said and assured the young Muslim Americans: “You are not Muslim or American. You are Muslim and American.”
Muslim political leaders “have to push back on the lie” that the West represses Muslims, Obama told the Muslim community leaders.
“This is not a clash of civilisations between the West and Islam,” he said and asked American-Muslims to show they’re faithful to Islam and also part of a pluralistic society in the US.