In a both historic and controversial event, United States President Barrack Obama has paid his first visit and delivered a speech at the Islamic Society Mosque in Windsor Mill, Baltimore on the 3rd of February, 2016, attempting to address the issue of anti-Muslim rhetoric that has swept across the American nation in recent months and has intensified during the more recent stages of the presidential campaign.
The address by President Obama also served as a reminder that Islam’s religious leaders have an important duty in condemning acts of extremism and must actively take part in projecting a positive image of their faith.
The reactions followed quickly
Reactions to the speech delivered by President Obama have only come to show how divisive of an issue the perception of Islam in American society has become. Most notable are statements coming from presidential candidates Donald Trump and republican senator Marco Rubio.
Both have condemned the President’s decision to deliver this speech, senator Rubio saying that it serves only to further pit Americans against one-another and Donald Trump continuing to question the religious beliefs of the commander-in-chief, altogether. Even those of more moderate views, such as republican candidate Jeb Bush have gone on to state that the United States should focus its humanitarian aid towards Christian refugees fleeing Syria, instead of Muslims.
Some Muslim leaders criticized the President’s late visit
While such reactions were to be expected from the GOP candidates, it is interesting to note that reactions from the Muslim community, although generally positive, have called out President Obama for having waited this long, since becoming the leader of the United States of America, until visiting a mosque.
In a time in which the image of Islam portrayed by media outlets everywhere is almost always associated with terrorist figures and acts of violence, the speech delivered by President Obama comes as a much needed breath of fresh air.
It does not only re-assert the values on which the Constitution of the United States is founded, but also serves as a reminder to all for the need of tolerance and education in order to combat the growing tide of discrimination that has been slowly sweeping across America ever since the incidents of 9/11, 14 years ago. It would also be interesting to note how the people’s perception of Muslims has changed since then, in correlation with their political orientation.
Everything changed after 9/11
The Christian Science Monitor brings forward an interesting statistic in this sense, indicating that in 2002, after the incidents of 9/11, approximately 40% of both Republicans and Democrats perceived that very few Muslims, if any, harbored any anti-American feelings. In recent times the number of conservatives has dropped to approximately 29%, while liberals have increased to 54%.
As a symbol of affirmative action, Muhammed A. Chaudhry speaks in an article for Time Magazine about an active campaign entitled “True Islam and Extremists” which intends to combat terrorism and radicalization of youths through education.
While ending his article saying that in order for Muslims to stand up against extremism, education is key, it would probably serve readers well to understand that the need for education manifests itself on both sides – for those who would be radicalized and for those who would encourage them in that direction through discrimination and racial propaganda.