President Obama’s Mosque Visit Reignites Islamophobia
The purpose of President Obama’s visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore yesterday was to address the recent surge of Islamophobia across the country. Unfortunately, it inspired Islamophobic responses from GOP presidential candidates and conservative media alike. The president’s speech served as a rejection of the anti-Islam rhetoric spread by GOP presidential candidates throughout this election season. He delivered a strong rebuke of the rising tide of Islamophobia saying, “If we’re serious about freedom of religion — and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country — we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths.” The president also repeated the position of millions of Muslims who argue that ISIS does not represent Islam and had harsh words for such extremists who claim Islam as their inspiration.
In this era of increasing Islamophobia, President Obama’s visit to a mosque was more important than ever. However, not surprisingly, conservatives and GOP candidates openly criticized the President’s visit, using the hateful rhetoric we’re all too used to hearing from Republican candidates and their supporters in this election.
Here are just a few lowlights:
- Marco Rubio said that President Obama’s visit was an example of him “always pitting people against each other.” At a town hall in Dover, New Hampshire yesterday Rubio said, “Look at today — he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind.”
- Donald Trump used Obama’s visit to tout the conspiracy theory that Obama is a Muslim. While speaking on Fox News, Donald Trump suggested that Obama felt “comfortable” in mosques. This comment isn’t surprising as Trump has repeatedly questioned Obama’s citizenship, as well as his religion, implying that he may actually be a Muslim. Trump has also advocated for a national registry for Muslims in the United States.
Conservative media outlets claimed the Baltimore mosque has extreme ties. Many conservative outlets, including Breitbart, Washington Times, and the Daily Caller, criticized the Islamic Society of Baltimore, accusing it of ties to extremists based on dubious facts. The Daily Caller said the mosque has “deep extremist ties,” while the Washington Times claimed it has “historical ties to radical Islamic groups.”
In their criticisms of President Obama, Rubio, Trump, and many conservative media outlets are overlooking the fact that former President George W. Bush did the exact same thing. In 2001, just days after 9/11, Bush visited the Islamic Center of Washington, DC to decry an increase in attacks against Muslim Americans. Bush also spoke out against Islamophobia saying, “Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind.”
The Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric spread by Rubio, Trump, and much of the conservative media is not only morally wrong and factually inaccurate, but it also threatens the safety of Muslims in the United States and harms our national security. Anti-Muslim rhetoric, particularly from political leaders, gives legitimacy to the idea that there is a fight and “clash of civilizations” between America and Islam, which plays right into terrorists’ strategies.
BOTTOM LINE: As the rise of Islamophobia continues, President Obama’s visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore is as important as ever and anti-Islam rhetoric from conservative leaders is as harmful as ever. Instead of exploiting legitimate concerns of Americans, Republican leaders should focus on creating a safe environment for Muslim-Americans and developing meaningful solutions to the threat of terrorism.
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