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E Pluribus Un-American:
The Judeo-Christian Smear of Islam

| February 5, 2016

obama mosque religious tolerance pierre trista,m

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Peter Souza/White House)

I don’t know what’s more disturbing. That President Obama felt compelled to go to a mosque this week and tell Muslims that they’re OK. Or that he waited until the eighth year of his presidency to do so, because he didn’t want to feed into the prejudice of the 29 percent of Americans who think he’s a Muslim, and the 43 percent of Republicans who still do.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive Imagine that. Almost half the Republicans in this country still hold a belief as absurd as believing that the Moon landing never took place, or that the earth is flat. As if it should even matter if a president is Muslim, Shinto or pagan. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Fifty percent of Republicans also don’t think human beings have much of anything to do with global warming, and about an equal share are splitting their infatuations between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, two men whose credentials as human beings can seem suspect to biologists and children alike.

So reality is not a GOP strength these days. And from my experience they’re not embarrassed about it. They don’t just believe that Obama is a Muslim. They brandish that belief like an open-carry dare. They want you to know it, even though it’s usually nothing more than a burqa on their bigotry. They can’t give vent to their true fury about a black man occupying their White House, so they manufactured the smear that has so many applications.

He wasn’t just a Muslim but he was from Kenya, which in the mind of many Americans, though let’s hope not 43 percent, still evokes Tarzan scenes of savages and cannibals. He wasn’t an American of course, as Trump reminded us so often. And Kenya is no Panama or Canada, so he couldn’t get away with what John McCain and Ted Cruz, those acceptably white boys factually not born on American soil, did. And didn’t Obama’s refusal to go to a mosque for eight years prove that he was a closet terrorist?

But it’s not just about Obama. He’s the whipping boy. He’s not the source of a disease older than the nation. Obama’s fear of being branded a Muslim reveals how deep religious and racial prejudice are still embedded in enormous segments of this nation’s culture, especially its dominant political culture. Politicians love to garland their speeches in reverence for Judeo-Christian values. Even judges do so. Justice Antonin Scalia frequently mistakes his position on the supreme court for that of a cardinal on a papal synod. But it’s always Judeo-Christina this, Judeo-Christian that. You never hear about Islamic values, or hear the terms Judeo-Christian miscegenated with Islam, or the values of demographically smaller religions, let alone that of one the most universal religion on earth, meaning atheism.

The segregation is subtle at first. The term Judeo-Christian has been scrubbed of its historic maladies and bloodlusts, because our memories reach back only as far as last week’s TV trivia. But up close it’s more brutal than a national edict. Not only are certain religions, like certain races, separate from American values, but they’re unequal. They’re inferior. Islam is not considered just a different religion. It’s considered distasteful, and violent enough that when the leading Republican presidential candidate proposes banning entry of Muslims to this nation, his popularity soars.

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I don’t know about you (well, I do know unfortunately) but when I hear incantations to Judeo-Christianity I feel like those kids in the final scenes of the Blair Witch Project running around in hysterics with their heads about to be cut off. There’s usually no safe place to hide from that genocidal tradition–ask the remnants of native american civilizations, if you can’t hack the mass graves of European history until the TV age–any more than there is from other people’s odd assumptions about oneself.

The other day John Lamb, one of the 4,004-odd candidates for sheriff in this god-forsaken county, was speaking to a heathen friend of mine during a campaign swing through the Z section when my name came up for some reason, and he Christened me a Muslim. It’s not an unusual mistake. My skin is olive after all and I have an accent, so I must have Allahu Akbaristan tendencies. My friend–a Russian-atheist-Jew-liberal, and somehow not a lesbian–corrected him, though I’ve never considered my being a Catholic (like Lamb, incidentally) an improvement as much as a pox on both my haunches. That’s why I prefer to consider myself a Catholic no more than once a week (usually Friday, when I like to eat meat and get a little drunk), a Muslim a couple of times a week, a Jew for a plurality of workdays, and an atheist the rest of the time, because the last thing god needs is a bigger head.

I find no better way to live up to the American creed. No, not In god we trust, Salmon P. Chase’s 1863 adulteration of the nation’s currency, but e pluribus unum: from many, one. The many, to me, seems applicable to religion, among other beliefs. The more the merrier, in the Madisonian sense that it protects us from any single one of them turning its fantasies into national policy, while giving each one room to exercise its jollies free of government interference.

Judeo-Christian brands in the United States enjoy that freedom to excess even as they opportunistically claim that they’re under siege, the way Ted Cruz does whenever he needs a boost in fund-raising. It’s the NRA tactic: the most privileged pressure groups and cults always claim to be the most aggrieved, all the way to the bank. No wonder guns and religion cling to each other like Bonnie and Clyde.

As long as it’s the right religion. Islam most definitely is not. It’s the impostor religion, the trojan horse, the 21st century equivalent of communism, because a minority of bedraggled imbeciles with guns and a penchant for head-chopping–an oldy Christian specialty–play caliphate under the banner of Islam and have seduced weak-tempered jingoes into treating them like the century’s most existential threat. Never mind that lightning strikes do our nation more damage than “terrorists.” But that’s a scientific fact, and facts have no more a place in our civil discourse than the merest understanding of once noble beliefs like e pluribus unum.

So this is where we are as a nation, where we still are, and why the president was reduced to going to a mosque to deliver what, from a Muslim’s perspective, was a message as reassuring as it was condescending and patronizing.

Obama can’t be faulted. He has a mass of Judeo-Christian bigotry to face down. He did a fine job for a black Muslim. But if you think this country has evolved very much on the scales of racial and religious prejudice, then maybe your starry-striped burqua too is blocking your vision.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him @PierreTristam. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.

Remarks by the President at Islamic Society of Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland, Feb. 3, 2016

Well, good afternoon.  And, Sabah, thank you for the wonderful introduction and for your example — your devotion to your faith and your education, and your service to others.  You’re an inspiration.  You’re going to be a fantastic doctor.  And I suspect, Sabah, your parents are here because they wanted to see you so — where are Sabah’s parents?  There you go. (Applause.)  Good job, Mom.  She did great, didn’t she?  She was terrific.

To everyone here at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, thank you for welcoming me here today.  I want to thank Muslim Americans leaders from across this city and this state, and some who traveled even from out of state to be here.  I want to recognize Congressman John Sarbanes, who is here.  (Applause.)  As well as two other great leaders in Congress — and proud Muslim Americans — Congressman Keith Ellison from the great state of Minnesota — (applause) — and Congressman Andre Carson from the great state of Indiana.  (Applause.)

This mosque, like so many in our country, is an all-American story.  You’ve been part of this city for nearly half a century. You serve thousands of families — some who’ve lived here for decades as well as immigrants from many countries who’ve worked to become proud American citizens.

Now, a lot of Americans have never visited a mosque.  To the folks watching this today who haven’t — think of your own church, or synagogue, or temple, and a mosque like this will be very familiar.  This is where families come to worship and express their love for God and each other.  There’s a school where teachers open young minds.  Kids play baseball and football and basketball — boys and girls — I hear they’re pretty good.  (Laughter.)  Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts meet, recite the Pledge of Allegiance here.

With interfaith dialogue, you build bridges of understanding with other faith communities — Christians and Jews.  There’s a health clinic that serves the needy, regardless of their faith.  And members of this community are out in the broader community, working for social justice and urban development.  As voters, you come here to meet candidates.  As one of your members said, “just look at the way we live…we are true Americans.”

So the first thing I want to say is two words that Muslim Americans don’t hear often enough — and that is, thank you.  Thank you for serving your community.  Thank you for lifting up the lives of your neighbors, and for helping keep us strong and united as one American family.  We are grateful for that.  (Applause.)

Now, this brings me to the other reason I wanted to come here today.  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.

The Muslim American community remains relatively small –several million people in this country.  And as a result, most Americans don’t necessarily know — or at least don’t know that they know — a Muslim personally.  And as a result, many only hear about Muslims and Islam from the news after an act of terrorism, or in distorted media portrayals in TV or film, all of which gives this hugely distorted impression.

And since 9/11, but more recently, since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, you’ve seen too often people conflating the horrific acts of terrorism with the beliefs of an entire faith.  And of course, recently, we’ve heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country.

No surprise, then, that threats and harassment of Muslim Americans have surged.  Here at this mosque, twice last year, threats were made against your children.  Around the country, women wearing the hijab — just like Sabah — have been targeted. We’ve seen children bullied.  We’ve seen mosques vandalized.  Sikh Americans and others who are perceived to be Muslims have been targeted, as well.

I just had a chance to meet with some extraordinary Muslim Americans from across the country who are doing all sorts of work.  Some of them are doctors; some of them are community leaders; religious leaders.  All of them were doing extraordinary work not just in the Muslim community but in the American community.  And they’re proud of their work in business and education, and on behalf of social justice and the environment and education.  I should point out they were all much younger than me — (laughter) — which is happening more frequently these days.  And you couldn’t help but be inspired, hearing about the extraordinary work that they’re doing.  But you also could not help but be heartbroken to hear their worries and their anxieties.

Some of them are parents, and they talked about how their children were asking, are we going to be forced out of the country, or, are we going to be rounded up?  Why do people treat us like that?  Conversations that you shouldn’t have to have with children — not in this country.  Not at this moment.

And that’s an anxiety echoed in letters I get from Muslim Americans around the country.  I’ve had people write to me and say, I feel like I’m a second-class citizen.  I’ve had mothers write and say, “my heart cries every night,” thinking about how her daughter might be treated at school.  A girl from Ohio, 13 years old, told me, “I’m scared.”  A girl from Texas signed her letter “a confused 14-year-old trying to find her place in the world.”

These are children just like mine.  And the notion that they would be filled with doubt and questioning their places in this great country of ours at a time when they’ve got enough to worry about — it’s hard being a teenager already — that’s not who we are.

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.  (Applause.)

It’s a challenge to our values — and that means we have much work to do.  We’ve got to tackle this head on.  We have to be honest and clear about it.   And we have to speak out.  This is a moment when, as Americans, we have to truly listen to each other and learn from each other.  And I believe it has to begin with a common understanding of some basic facts.  And I express these facts, although they’d be obvious to many of the people in this place, because, unfortunately, it’s not facts that are communicated on a regular basis through our media.

So let’s start with this fact:  For more than a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace.  And the very word itself, Islam, comes from salam — peace.  The standard greeting is as-salamu alaykum — peace be upon you.  And like so many faiths, Islam is rooted in a commitment to compassion and mercy and justice and charity.  Whoever wants to enter paradise, the Prophet Muhammad taught, “let him treat people the way he would love to be treated.”  (Applause.)  For Christians like myself, I’m assuming that sounds familiar.  (Laughter.)

The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are as diverse as humanity itself.  They are Arabs and Africans.  They’re from Latin America to Southeast Asia; Brazilians, Nigerians, Bangladeshis, Indonesians.  They are white and brown and black.  There’s a large African American Muslim community.  That diversity is represented here today.  A 14-year-old boy in Texas who’s Muslim spoke for many when he wrote to me and said, “We just want to live in peace.”

Here’s another fact:  Islam has always been part of America. Starting in colonial times, many of the slaves brought here from Africa were Muslim.  And even in their bondage, some kept their faith alive.  A few even won their freedom and became known to many Americans.  And when enshrining the freedom of religion in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, our Founders meant what they said when they said it applied to all religions.

Back then, Muslims were often called Mahometans.  And Thomas Jefferson explained that the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom he wrote was designed to protect all faiths — and I’m quoting Thomas Jefferson now — “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan.”  (Applause.)

Jefferson and John Adams had their own copies of the Koran. Benjamin Franklin wrote that “even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”  (Applause.)  So this is not a new thing.

Generations of Muslim Americans helped to build our nation. They were part of the flow of immigrants who became farmers and merchants.  They built America’s first mosque, surprisingly enough, in North Dakota.  (Laughter.)  America’s oldest surviving mosque is in Iowa.  The first Islamic center in New York City was built in the 1890s.  Muslim Americans worked on Henry Ford’s assembly line, cranking out cars.  A Muslim American designed the skyscrapers of Chicago.

In 1957, when dedicating the Islamic center in Washington, D.C., President Eisenhower said, “I should like to assure you, my Islamic friends, that under the American Constitution … and in American hearts…this place of worship, is just as welcome…as any other religion.”  (Applause.)

And perhaps the most pertinent fact, Muslim Americans enrich our lives today in every way.  They’re our neighbors, the teachers who inspire our children, the doctors who trust us with our health — future doctors like Sabah.  They’re scientists who win Nobel Prizes, young entrepreneurs who are creating new technologies that we use all the time.  They’re the sports heroes we cheer for -— like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon.  And by the way, when Team USA marches into the next Olympics, one of the Americans waving the red, white and blue — (applause) — will a fencing champion, wearing her hijab, Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is here today.  Stand up.  (Applause.)  I told her to bring home the gold.  (Laughter.)  Not to put any pressure on you.  (Laughter.)

Muslim Americans keep us safe.  They’re our police and our firefighters.  They’re in homeland security, in our intelligence community.  They serve honorably in our armed forces — meaning they fight and bleed and die for our freedom.  Some rest in Arlington National Cemetery.  (Applause.)

So Muslim Americans are some of the most resilient and patriotic Americans you’ll ever meet.  We’re honored to have some of our proud Muslim American servicemembers here today.  Please stand if you’re here, so we can thank you for your service.  (Applause.)

So part of the reason I want to lay out these facts is because, in the discussions that I was having with these incredibly accomplished young people, they were pointing that so often they felt invisible.  And part of what we have to do is to lift up the contributions of the Muslim American community not when there’s a problem, but all the time.

Our television shows should have some Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security — (applause) — because — it’s not that hard to do.  There was a time when there were no black people on television.  And you can tell good stories while still representing the reality of our communities.

Now, we do have another fact that we have to acknowledge.  Even as the overwhelming majority — and I repeat, the overwhelming majority — of the world’s Muslims embrace Islam as a source of peace, it is undeniable that a small fraction of Muslims propagate a perverted interpretation of Islam.  This is the truth.

Groups like al Qaeda and ISIL, they’re not the first extremists in history to misuse God’s name.  We’ve seen it before, across faiths.  But right now, there is a organized extremist element that draws selectively from Islamic texts, twists them in an attempt to justify their killing and their terror.  They combine it with false claims that America and the West are at war with Islam.  And this warped thinking that has found adherents around the world — including, as we saw, tragically, in Boston and Chattanooga and San Bernardino — is real.  It’s there.  And it creates tensions and pressure that disproportionately burden the overwhelming majority of law-abiding Muslim citizens.

And the question then is, how do we move forward together?  How do we keep our country strong and united?  How do we defend ourselves against organizations that are bent on killing innocents?  And it can’t be the work of any one faith alone.  It can’t be just a burden on the Muslim community — although the Muslim community has to play a role.  We all have responsibilities.  So with the time I have left, I just want to suggest a few principles that I believe can guide us.

First, at a time when others are trying to divide us along lines of religion or sect, we have to reaffirm that most fundamental of truths:  We are all God’s children.  We’re all born equal, with inherent dignity.

And so often, we focus on our outward differences and we forget how much we share.  Christians, Jews, Muslims — we’re all, under our faiths, descendants of Abraham.  So mere tolerance of different religions is not enough.  Our faiths summon us to embrace our common humanity.  “O mankind,” the Koran teaches, we have “made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.” (Applause.)  So all of us have the task of expressing our religious faith in a way that seeks to build bridges rather than to divide.

Second, as Americans, we have to stay true to our core values, and that includes freedom of religion for all faiths.  I already mentioned our Founders, like Jefferson, knew that religious liberty is essential not only to protect religion but because religion helps strengthen our nation — if it is free, if it is not an extension of the state.  Part of what’s happened in the Middle East and North Africa and other places where we see sectarian violence is religion being a tool for another agenda — for power, for control.  Freedom of religion helps prevent that, both ways — protects religious faiths, protects the state from  — or those who want to take over the state from using religious animosity as a tool for their own ends.

That doesn’t mean that those of us with religious faith should not be involved.  We have to be active citizenry.  But we have to respect the fact that we have freedom of religion.

Remember, many preachers and pastors fought to abolish the evil of slavery.  People of faith advocated to improve conditions for workers and ban child labor.  Dr. King was joined by people of many faiths, challenging us to live up to our ideals.  And that civil activism, that civic participation that’s the essence of our democracy, it is enhanced by freedom of religion.

Now, we have to acknowledge that there have been times where we have fallen short of our ideals.  By the way, Thomas Jefferson’s opponents tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim — so I was not the first — (applause.)  No, it’s true, it’s true.  Look it up.  (Laughter.)  I’m in good company. (Laughter.)

But it hasn’t just been attacks of that sort that have been used.  Mormon communities have been attacked throughout our history.  Catholics, including, most prominently, JFK — John F. Kennedy — when he ran for President, was accused of being disloyal.  There was a suggestion that he would be taking orders from the Pope as opposed to upholding his constitutional duties. Anti-Semitism in this country has a sad and long history, and Jews were exclude routinely from colleges and professions and from public office.

And so 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.  (Applause.)  And when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up.  And we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion.

We’ve got to make sure that hate crimes are punished, and that the civil rights of all Americans are upheld.  (Applause.)  And just as faith leaders, including Muslims, must speak out when Christians are persecuted around the world — (applause) — or when anti-Semitism is on the rise — because the fact is, is that there are Christians who are targeted now in the Middle East, despite having been there for centuries, and there are Jews who’ve lived in places like France for centuries who now feel obliged to leave because they feel themselves under assault –sometimes by Muslims.  We have to be consistent in condemning hateful rhetoric and violence against everyone.  (Applause.)  And that includes against Muslims here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So none of us can be silent.  We can’t be bystanders to bigotry.  And together, we’ve got to show that America truly protects all faiths.

Which brings me to my next point:  As we protect our country from terrorism, we should not reinforce the ideas and the rhetoric of the terrorists themselves.  I often hear it said that we need moral clarity in this fight.  And the suggestion is somehow that if I would simply say, these are all Islamic terrorists, then we would actually have solved the problem by now, apparently.  (Laughter.)  Well, I agree, we actually do need moral clarity.  Let’s have some moral clarity.  (Applause.)

Groups like ISIL are desperate for legitimacy.  They try to portray themselves as religious leaders and holy warriors who speak for Islam.  I refuse to give them legitimacy.  We must never give them that legitimacy.  (Applause.)  They’re not defending Islam.  They’re not defending Muslims.  The vast majority of the people they kill are innocent Muslim men, women and children.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, the notion that America is at war with Islam ignores the fact that the world’s religions are a part of who we are.  We can’t be at war with any other religion because the world’s religions are a part of the very fabric of the United States, our national character.  (Applause.)

So the best way for us to fight terrorism is to deny these organizations legitimacy and to show that here in the United States of America, we do not suppress Islam; we celebrate and lift up the success of Muslim Americans.  That’s how we show the lie that they’re trying to propagate.  (Applause.)  We shouldn’t play into terrorist propaganda.  And we can’t suggest that Islam itself is at the root of the problem.  That betrays our values.  It alienates Muslim Americans.  It’s hurtful to those kids who are trying to go to school and are members of the Boy Scouts, and are thinking about joining our military.

That kind of mindset helps our enemies.  It helps our enemies recruit.  It makes us all less safe.  So let’s be clear about that.

Now, finally, just as all Americans have a responsibility to reject discrimination — I’ve said this before — Muslims around the world have a responsibility to reject extremist ideologies that are trying to penetrate within Muslim communities.

Here at this mosque, and across our country and around the world, Muslim leaders are roundly and repeatedly and consistently condemning terrorism.  And around the globe, Muslims who’ve dared to speak out have often been targeted and even killed.  So those voices are there; we just have to amplify them more.  (Applause.)

And it was interesting, in the discussion I had before I came out, some people said, why is there always a burden on us? When a young man in Charleston shoots African Americans in a church, there’s not an expectation that every white person in America suddenly is explaining that they’re not racist.  They can Everybody is assumed to be horrified by that act.  And I recognize that sometimes that doesn’t feel fair.

But part of the answer is to make sure that the Muslim community in all of its variety, in all the good works that it’s doing, in all the talent that’s on display, that it’s out there visible on a consistent basis — not just at a certain moment.  (Applause.)

But what is also true is, is that there is a battle of hearts and minds that takes place — that is taking place right now, and American Muslims are better positioned than anybody to show that it is possible to be faithful to Islam and to be part of a pluralistic society, and to be on the cutting-edge of science, and to believe in democracy.  (Applause.)

And so I would urge all of you not to see this as a burden, but as a great opportunity and a great privilege to show who you are.  To use a little Christian expression — let your light shine.  Because when you do you’ll make clear that this is not a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam.  This is a struggle between the peace-loving, overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world and a radical, tiny minority.  And ultimately, I’m confident that the overwhelming majority will win that battle.  (Applause.)  Muslims will decide the future of your faith.  And I’m confident in the direction that it will go.

But across the Islamic world, influential voices should consistently speak out with an affirmative vision of their faith. And it’s happening.  These are the voices of Muslim clerics who teach that Islam prohibits terrorism, for the Koran says whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind.  (Applause.)  These are the voices of Muslim scholars, some of whom join us today, who know Islam has a tradition of respect for other faiths; and Muslim teachers who point out that the first word revealed in the Koran — igra — means “read” — to seek knowledge, to question assumptions.  (Applause.)

Muslim political leaders have to push back on the lie that the West oppresses Muslims, and against conspiracy theories that says America is the cause of every ill in the Middle East.  Now, that doesn’t mean that Muslim Americans aren’t free to criticize American — U.S. foreign policy.  That’s part of being an American.  I promise you, as the President of the United States, I’m mindful that that is a healthy tradition that is alive and well in America.  (Laughter.)  But like leaders everywhere, these leaders have been offering, and need to continue to offer, a positive vision for progress, and that includes political and economic progress.

And we have to acknowledge that much of the violence in places like the Middle East is now turning into fights between sects — Shia, Sunni and others — where differences are often exploited to serve political agendas, as I said earlier.  And this bloodshed is destroying Muslim families and communities, and there has to be global pressure to have the vision and the courage to end this kind of thinking and this approach to organizing political power.

It’s not historically unique.  It’s happened in every part of the world — from Northern Ireland to Africa, to Asia, to right here in the United States — in the past.  But it is something that we have to fight against.

And we know it’s possible.  Across the history of Islam, different sects traditionally have lived and thrived together peacefully.  And in many parts of the world they do today, including here in the United States.

Like people of all religions, Muslims living their faith in a modern, pluralistic world are called upon to uphold human rights, to make sure that everyone has opportunity.  That includes the aspirations of women and youth and all people.  If we expect our own dignity to be respected, so must we respect the dignity of others.  (Applause.)

So let me conclude by saying that as Muslim communities stand up for the future that you believe in, that you exhibit in your daily lives, as you teach your children, America will be your partner.  We will — I will — do everything I can to lift up the multiplicity of Muslim voices that promote pluralism and peace.  (Applause.)  We will continue to reach out to young Muslims around the world, empowering them with science and technology and entrepreneurship, so they can pursue their God-given potential, and help build up their communities and provide opportunity.  It’s why we will continue to partner with Muslim American communities — not just to help you protect against extremist threats, but to expand health care and education and opportunity — (applause) — because that’s the best way to build strong, resilient communities.

Our values must guide us in this work.  Engagement with Muslim American communities must never be a cover for surveillance.  (Applause.)  We can’t give in to profiling entire groups of people.  There’s no one single profile of terrorists.  We can’t securitize our entire relationship with Muslim Americans.  We can’t deal with you solely through the prism of law enforcement.  We’ve got to build trust and mutual respect.  That’s how we’ll keep our communities strong and our communities united.

As I was in discussion with the young people before I came in here, I said this will be a process.  Law enforcement has a tough job.  Some of these groups are specifically trying to target Muslim youth.  We’re going to have to be partners in this process.  There will be times where the relationship is clumsy or mishandled.  But I want you to know that from the President to the FBI Director, to everybody in law enforcement, my directive and their understanding is, is that this is something we have to do together.  And if we don’t do it well, then we’re actually not making ourselves safer; we’re making ourselves less safe.

And here, I want to speak directly to the young people who may be listening.  In our lives, we all have many identities.  We are sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters.  We’re classmates; Cub Scout troop members.  We’re followers of our faith.  We’re citizens of our country.  And today, there are voices in this world, particularly over the Internet, who are constantly claiming that you have to choose between your identities — as a Muslim, for example, or an American.  Do not believe them.  If you’re ever wondering whether you fit in here, let me say it as clearly as I can, as President of the United States:  You fit in here — right here.  (Applause.)  You’re right where you belong.  You’re part of America, too.  (Applause.)  You’re not Muslim or American.  You’re Muslim and American. (Applause.)

Don’t grow cynical.  Don’t respond to ignorance by embracing a world view that suggests you must choose between your faith and your patriotism.  Don’t believe that you have to choose between your best impulses and somehow embrace a world view that pits us against each other — or, even worse, glorifies violence.  Understand your power to bring about change.  Stay engaged in your community.  Help move our country forward — your country forward.  (Applause.)

We are blessed to live in a nation where even if we sometimes stumble, even if we sometimes fall short, we never stop striving for our ideals.  We keep moving closer to that more perfect union.  We’re a country where, if you work hard and if you play by the rules, you can ultimately make it, no matter who you are or how you pray.  It may not always start off even in the race, but here, more than any place else, there’s the opportunity to run that race.

And as we go forward, I want every Muslim American to remember you are not alone.  Your fellow Americans stand with you — just as Sabah described her friends after she decided that she was going to start wearing a hijab.  That’s not unusual.  Because just as so often we only hear about Muslims after a terrorist attack, so often we only hear about Americans’ response to Muslims after a hate crime has happened, we don’t always hear about the extraordinary respect and love and community that so many Americans feel.

I’m thinking about the seven-year-old boy in Texas who emptied his piggy bank to help a mosque that had been vandalized. (Applause.)  Or all the faith communities that rallied around Muslim Americans after the tragedy in Chapel Hill.  The churches and the synagogues standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their local mosques, including the woman carrying a sign saying “We love our Muslim neighbors.”  Think of our men and women in uniform who, when they heard that a little girl was afraid because she’s a Muslim, sent her a message — “I Will Protect You.”  (Applause.)

I want every American to remember how Muslim communities are standing up for others, as well.  Because right now, as we speak, there are Muslims in Kenya who saved Christians from terrorists, and Muslims who just met in Morocco to protect religious minorities, including Christians and Jews.  (Applause.)  The good people of this mosque helped this city move forward after the turmoil of last year.  Muslim Americans across the country helped African American churches rebuild after arson.

Remember the Muslim Americans in Boston who reached out to victims of the Marathon bombing; the Muslim Americans across the country who raised money for the families of San Bernardino; the Muslim Americans in Chattanooga who honored our fallen servicemembers, one of them saying, “in the name of God, the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, God bless our fallen heroes.”  (Applause.)

We are one American family.  We will rise and fall together. It won’t always be easy.  There will be times where our worst impulses are given voice.  But I believe that ultimately, our best voices will win out.  And that gives me confidence and faith in the future.  (Applause.)

After more than 200 years, our blended heritage, the patchwork quilt which is America, that is not a weakness, that is one of our greatest strengths.  It’s what makes us a beacon to the world.  It’s what led that mother who wrote to me — the one who worries about her young daughter — it led her to end her letter with hope, despite her fears.  She said, “I still believe in one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  (Applause.)

May God’s peace be upon you.  May God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END: 1:52 P.M. EST

32 Responses for E Pluribus Un-American:
The Judeo-Christian Smear of Islam”

  1. Ken Dodge says:

    You had me right up until the end of the fifth paragraph where you labeled atheism a religion.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Talk about bigotry, I feel it strange that Obama felt compelled to visit a mosque that was publicly protested against by its own female congregation members as treating the women who worship inside its doors differently (worse) than the men congregants.

  3. Jeffersonian101 says:

    @Ken – I disagree with your premise that atheists are NOT religious in that they do not worship a supreme being or higher power. If man does not worship a greater power than himself, he must worship himself. Ironically, most “religious” men fall into the trap of self-worship regardless. Just in example… We take the Christian idea that God created man in his own image. Man interprets that to mean, “man” physically and spiritually is what God looks like. It’s man’s way of not only justifying mans existence, but also divine right to pursuit of need and desire.

    What it really means however, is that man was created in the vision God had for us. I find it even more ironic that such an important understanding is verbalized in such a way as to leave open interpretation by man. Almost like a test for man to find the righteous path…

    Back on main point, I don’t agree with every point Pierre made, however the hypocrisy of our culture knows no bounds and that we can agree on. The only point of comfort I can give to those who feel they have been ostracized (in a way) by white men… Those white men are not the majority anymore. In fact, the Internet is both their source of power and demise. The web allows them to enable and defend one another while at the same time, providing cause for those with just hearts to continue fighting inherent ignorance.

    All I can really say Pierre is that time will erase all of this, but it’s never a luxury we have enough of. These men are an embarrassment not to this country, but to humanity itself. If there really is a supreme being who is anywhere near the Christian or Allah many place their faith in… God have mercy on their souls

  4. Anonymous says:

    …Anyone wishing to read about the protest at the Mosque that Obama visited in Baltimore can begin with this article: The Algemeiner– “Muslim Women Protest Obama’s Baltimore Mosque Visit” (2-4-2016) The article was written by Steve Emerson, who is the Executive Director for the The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

  5. Veteran says:

    If he’s not a Muslim, then he is worse for worshipping the Reverend Wright for 20 years!

  6. Lin says:

    “Obama can’t be faulted”
    Apparently not, by the writer.
    Will the media ever tire of using race to shield Obama from responsibility for his actions?
    Will the media ever stop digging for sins of centuries ago to cover for the sins of today?
    It’s like saying to my grandchild after she is hit in the head by a doll, but your great-great-great grandmother hit someone first.

    Will Obama ever defend Jews and Christians here and in the Middle East?
    Will Muslims ever take responsibility for the misdeeds (ok I’ll say it) genocide of infidels?
    Will Obama ever take up the cause of women, homosexuals, other-than-the in-favor sect of Muslims that are the target of the caliphate?

    What is happening here with terrorism and in Europe with terrorism (murder and rapes, sexual slavery) is a consequence of all the apologies, blaming the victim, blaming history, dragging us back into the awful part of history when racism and bigotry were more widespread and projecting that into now without giving our fellow Anericans any credit for the big steps we have taken to assure that all citizens have a good shot at a better life. The last prayer breakfast, when Christians got a condescending lecture by Obama, and this long speech in defense of Muslims, how does this help our nation deal with the culture clash of Judeo/Christian values and sharia law? If I wanted my rights as a woman or Christian taken away, I would go live in the Middke East. But they are coming here they say to convert or kill us. I believe them

    My next door neighbor up north was killed in 9/11, a firefighter. So many here have forgotten. Terror us real. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it (forgive the cliche)
    How many have to die for terrorism to be real?

  7. Layla says:

    I don’t see any Christians cutting off heads…

  8. Tina says:

    Pierre, I SO agree with what you say. It seems that over the world the inmates are running the asylum.

  9. Bc says:

    The great obama is at it again or should I say the great divider is at it again. Next January can’t come soon enough good riddance. Obama you divided this country and the world. there is no doubt that you will go down in history as the worst president in the last 100 years. And I voted for you. What a disappointment

  10. r&r says:

    The cause is blmed on radical muslims. As far as I’m concerned they’re all radical and Obama is their leader.

  11. Sherry says:

    Excellent article Pierre!

    Again, you point out the fundamental bigotry that is the genesis of racism and religious zealotry in our country. The media drum beat of fear and xenophobia is playing right into the hands of all terrorists. The fanatic Trump and Cruz followers are grabbing their poison pens and guns to take down anyone with a thought, or belief, or skin color different than their own!

    FEAR. . . quite the control mechanism over the ignorant!

  12. theevoice says:

    thank goodness obama boy will be gone soon..though not soon enough!!

  13. Mark says:

    I don’t care that he is a white/black muslim, I do care that he is an incompetent feckless pretend leader.

  14. Nancy N. says:

    This may be the best piece you’ve ever written that I’ve seen Pierre. Bravo.

    Layla, you obviously missed the sections in your history class about the French Revolution and Anne Boleyn. Beheading was the preferred execution method of white Catholic and Protestant governments for centuries in Europe, long before ISIS adopted the practice.

  15. stjohnspatriot says:

    Perhaps the real intended audience was the one that needs to hear this message the most? Unfortunately, that audience cannot hear nor comprehend anything coming from the black strawman with big ears.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Nancy N–Apparently you haven’t read the part of the Qu’ran that speaks specifically about smoting off the head of the enemy at the neck. I am puzzled by the indiscriminate efforts of Islamo-apologists to combat even factual information about the religion of Islam in their zeal to defend all Muslims even when the criticism is valid. Please do look up the information supplied above about the Muslim women who protested Obama’s visit to that specific Mosque in Baltimore. Open up your eyes. All religions–in fact, all human beings–have their less than commendable moments and traits. Muslims should not be discriminated against or treated unfairly. But no one should be giving Muslims who discriminate against others and/or act harmfully towards them a blank political or behavioral check in the interests of today’s so-called “progressive” version of what is politically correct.

  17. Geezer says:

    What we need is a chart showing murderous acts perpetrated in the name of God
    over the centuries, which will show Christianity (especially Roman Catholicism) at
    the top. Sure Islam leads now in violence – but it needs centuries to catch up to
    Christianity’s death toll. Perhaps a big ol’ crusade?

    Not too long ago in Europe, Catholics and Lutherans were putting Jews in concentration
    camps, working them to death, and mass-burning their remains like trash.
    How many were killed this way: 6 million? And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

    Research it.

    I too was blowing my horn about my hatred of Islam for myriad reasons.
    I do believe that there’s a power that we cannot comprehend, but I dislike organized
    religion because it divides us all. And that division is at the heart of organized hatred.
    Organized religion frequently becomes “organized hatred.”

    And don’t come preaching to me. My religion is helping others, and respecting all life.
    It doesn’t need a title, because I don’t want to join the “sheeple” of the world.
    Hatred, dear friends is a cancer. Find a healthy hobby – collect stamps or anything else.

  18. Rich Mikola says:

    What a load of crap! the muslims lost me when they started slicing Christian throats on u-tube.

  19. Sherry says:

    @Anonymous. . . While I agree that no person or religion should be given a blank check to act against reasonable human rights, those of us who bring up historical facts of horrific brutality by Christians do so to counter balance comments that indicate that Christians are more perfect than they really are. I believe that Nancy was responding to Layla’s comment about Christians not cutting off anyone’s heads. I would add that the Nazi Christians did things to Jewish people that is unspeakable!

    President Obama is striving to balance out all the “hate” rhetoric against ALL Muslims, especially by Republican presidential candidates. I, and many, many others admire his imperfect efforts. Words do matter! The world is watching. . . and many bigoted people in our nation should be very, very ashamed!

  20. stjohnspatriot says:

    Anonymous, there is wide disagreement in all religions about their holy texts. Islam and the Koran are no different. But your interpretation of Muhammad 47:4 doesn’t make much sense when you read the whole passage:

    [Shakir] [47.4] So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates. That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish.

    “Smite” means to strike. “Necks” here means persons. The word “off” is nowhere to be found. This makes sense within the context of the next phrase which refers to letting the prisoner go free. You cannot allow a prisoner to go free or ransom them after you have already cut their necks off.

    Of course, a literal interpretation of what was written 1300 years ago or 2000 years ago or 5000 years ago (or even 225 years ago for our Constitution fetishists) has no relevance to our lives in 2016. After all, you don’t see Christians leaving dead bodies around to bury themselves despite Jesus’ command do you?

  21. Common Sense says:

    The wingnuts continue to criticize everything the President does, while the Republicans sit by and do nothing about governing.

    As for all of you who rant about Muslims, how about the horrors committed by other religions through the years? You rant about the treatment of women but you are silent on the Mormons and their treatment of women.

    And as for the rest of you, angry, ignorant, old white men…President Obama is not a Muslin, was born in the US and has been President for eight years, something not one of you could achieve.

  22. Ken Dodge says:

    You can allow prisoners to go free or ransom those who were survivors from amongst those who were slaughtered by having their heads cut off.

  23. Knightwatch says:

    Well said, Common Sense. The ultra-conservative movement is rooted in white fear, racism and bigotry. Ultra-conservatives have perverted a once-principled Republican Party;. They have neither vision nor desire to govern America’s multicultural society. They wish only to turn the clock back to 1950 and impose their white-centric, bible-thumping racist and bigoted ideology on us all.

    They will not win. We’ve come too far.

  24. Don't want this nut case knowing my name says:

    I haven’t lived in this area for too long and I may just say I have never read such scary, bigoted trash in my life. The author is all he accuses others of and so much more. What reasonable website would even want such a person contributing? Yes we have free speech and that does allow this person to spew this hatred. But evidently he doesn’t think others have the same right.
    I think that most dislike Obama because of his lies and policies, not because his skin is black. And the only reason that most even care if Obama is a Muslim is because he makes such a big deal out of saying he is not. At his speech at the Mosque he once again referred to his fellow Christians.

  25. Don't want this nut case knowing my name says:

    I have read my response again and perhaps it was too harsh. Not normally me. The name I chose definitely was. While I disagree with the author , I apologize if my response was inappropriate..

  26. Anonymous says:

    The fact is, the mosque in question that Obama choose to visit treats its female congregants like second class citizens. I did not, and would not, infer that examples of the same or worse behavior can’t be found in other religions as well. The fact is, your thin-skinned responses are proving my point, Today’s version of “political correctness” demands that those who wish to be in with the “progressive in crowd” not let any legitimate comment that might be construed as critical be aired when it comes to Islam or matters pertaining to Muslims/Arabs. At the same time, go to any “Occupy Movement” rally and you will hear horrible things being said about “Jews” (usually to the tune of how they control the banks and media and such) and “Zionists” (like how they eat Palestinian children for breakfast, lunch and dinner.) If anyone dares protest the nature of these remarks (which sometimes get physical), the “freedom of speech” justification for such obvious examples of hate is loudly proclaimed to be much more important than the damage that nauseating rhetoric can (and does) do. Moral equivalency is a wonderful thing, especially when applied rationally and thoughtfully. We should all try to employ more of it.

  27. Sheila Skipp Zinkerman says:

    We exist in space
    We are destined to share this space with others
    Our constructs are diverse
    This is the fabric of our existance
    Through our senses we experience these differences
    Manage these differences
    Manage diversity

  28. just me says:

    Its amazing the ‘hate” bigotry sexism ,racisim, ageism and anti religious intolerance that comes from some on the left when one speaks their mind. IMO the left are the most intolerant of other views as they personally attack other with a differing view. again IMO they are the true bigots as they seem to lump individuals teeth by race, religion, age or whatever.

  29. r&r says:

    Obama was not born in the U.S. If he was where is his birth certificate and why does he have a social sucurety number from a dead guy from Conneticut????????????????????????????? He’s a phony and throws out a bunch of crap out of his mouth and hopes some of it sticks.

  30. mel guillory says:

    Glad that Muslim loving baboon will be getting evicted soon.

  31. ThreeLetters says:

    I’ve seen people reference atrocities committed by “Christians” centuries ago, and others say, “That was then, but this is now.” Just like the Islam, with its selfish monsters if ISIS, Christianity still has its perverters of religion. They don’t follow the religion, but use misinterpretation as a shield. To those who don’t think people are still committing attacks in the name of Christianity, I have three letters:


  32. Newbie says:

    I wish it wasn’t so easy to express an opinion, as I am totally freaked out by some of the anti-Obama statements posted on this blog. I may never go out in public again. I had no idea that people like this were actually living, breathing beings who could very well be behind me in the line at Publix. I’m hunkering down. haha

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