Obama Decries Anti-Muslim Discrimination at White House Eid Celebration
By Jordan Fabian
President Obama on Thursday bemoaned discrimination faced by Muslim Americans, calling on people in the US to practice tolerance toward their fellow citizens.
“Let’s be clear: Muslim Americans are as patriotic, as integrated, as American as any other member of the American family,” Obama said during a White House reception celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.
Obama urged people around the country to ensure that Muslim Americans do not feel as if they’re “second-class citizens.”
“We see you, we believe in you," the president said, addressing young Muslims in the room. "And despite what you may sometimes hear, you’ve got to know you’re a valued part of the American family and there is nothing you cannot do."
Obama made the comments hours before Donald Trump was set to accept the Republican Party's nomination for president in Cleveland.
Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration in the wake of last year’s terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., has been a rallying cry for his campaign.
"Discriminating against Muslim Americans is also an affront to the very values that already make our nation great," Obama said.
The president said he was speaking during a “difficult time” for the Muslim American community in the aftermath of recent attacks in Orlando, Fla., and Nice, France.
He vowed that the government would go after groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that have taken credit for such attacks.
He emphasized that the Muslim American community should be treated as an ally in pushing back against extremism and must not be viewed with wholesale suspicion.
“Singling out Muslim Americans feeds the lie of terrorists like ISIS that the West is somehow at war with a religion that includes over a billion adherents. That’s not smart national security.” – TheHill
Chants of '4 More Years' for President Obama: According to another report by Mariam Khan on the White House Eid celebration, President Obama reaffirmed his steadfast support and respect for the Muslim community in the United States at the reception. He called for tolerance of Muslim Americans, while also recognizing the communities' achievements and contributions to society.
Obama defended the patriotic role more than 5,000 Muslim Americans have played in serving the US military, while also commending the many doctors, architects, community leaders, and police officers that identify as Muslim, including one athlete heading to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.
"You are the athletes that we cheer for, like American fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is going to be proudly wearing her hijab when she represents America at the Rio Olympics," Obama said. "No pressure…"
"This year, for my last year as President, I wanted to do something a little bit different, and I’m very proud to host this Eid celebration at the White House," Obama said.
Colorful headscarves littered the crowd, as 12-year-old Raahima Siddiqi of Virginia led off the remarks with an eloquent recitation of the Arabic prayer, Surah Fatiha, the first chapter in Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an.
Introducing Obama was Aisha Osman, 15, of Beaverton, Oregon, who was selected after Obama read a letter she sent him about her experiences as a young Muslim American.
“As an African-American Muslim, I’ve been called a terrorist and the N-word. What those people don’t know is that I am proud to be an American," Osman said. "I know I am the future of this country that I love."
Obama called her letter "heartbreaking."
"Now that’s a young American, full of promise, full of possibility, fearful because of her faith," he said during his remarks.
The White House reception comes at a fraught time for Muslim-Americans, as threats and harassment aimed at the country’s nearly 3 million population continue to surge. Recent anti-Islamic rhetoric spewed by several high-profile Republican politicians has only stoked the issue further in their efforts to conflate horrific acts of terrorism with the beliefs of an entire faith…
"Singling out Muslim Americans, moreover, feeds the lie of terrorists like ISIL that the West is somehow at war with a religion that includes over a billion adherents. That’s not smart national security ," Obama said.
Chants of "four more years" rang out as Obama spoke about the "challenging times" the country is currently facing.
“No, no, no, Michelle is gonna come down and scold me,” he laughed.
Obama also acknowledged “the greatest, the champ, Muhammad Ali ," saying the boxing legend was "as proud of his blackness as he was of his faith."
“The champ taught us the most important thing in life is to be ourselves,” he said. Ali’s wife Lonnie, and six of their children were also in attendance.
Obama urged the crowd to reject hatred and discrimination, reiterating the need for Muslim Americans and "all Americans" to stand together and "look out for one another."
"So today, we celebrate this wonderful holiday and honor a great faith, but we also recommit ourselves to building an America where everybody has the opportunity to achieve their dreams," Obama said. "And we reaffirm the values of democracy, and freedom of religion , and tolerance, and community building, and understanding, and hard work that allows all of us -- whatever our faiths -- to prosper." – abc news