At Baltimore Mosque, Obama Tells Muslims: You're Part Of America Too
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
President Obama marked a first during his time in office yesterday when he stepped into an American mosque.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And delivered this message to worshipers at the Islamic Society of Baltimore.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you're ever wondering whether you fit in here, let me say it as clear as I can as president of the United States. You fit in here, right here.
OBAMA: You're right where you belong. You're part of America, too.
MONTAGNE: Naeem Chaudry is from Baltimore and like the other attendees we spoke to, he was thrilled the president visited his mosque.
NAEEM CHAUDRY: It was kind of amazing. This was a center that I grew up in. The mosque is known for its civic engagement. It's a model for different communities.
KELLY: Wardah Khalid is a Middle East policy analyst who was invited to the event by the White House. She was moved by the president's use of a traditional greeting in Arabic.
WARDAH KHALID: He mentioned verses from the Koran. He said assalamu alaikum (ph) properly. And, you know, it was very touching to see him say these things directly to the Muslim-American community. And let me tell you, the people in the room really appreciated it.
KELLY: But Khalid did wonder why it took the president more than seven years to visit an American mosque.
KHALID: The fact that he took this long to visit a U.S. mosque is concerning when he's visited other houses of worship. It makes one think that he's trying to distance himself from Islam. Maybe he's dealing with the fact that people are accusing him of being Muslim as if that's a bad thing.
MONTAGNE: Khalid thinks there was a practical reason for the visit, specifically as a way to combat propaganda aimed at young American Muslims.
KHALID: I think President Obama was trying to provide a sense of belonging within the American fabric so that not only do they feel American, but they're not tempted to join somebody who tells them well, you're not American or accepted in your country, so join us.
MONTAGNE: The president said he was trying to fix a hugely distorted impression of Muslim-Americans who have reported hate speech, attacks and death threats in recent months. There have also been calls on the campaign trail, from Donald Trump in particular, to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
KELLY: At the Baltimore mosque, President Obama spoke out against what he called, quote, "Inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim-Americans that has no place in our society." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.