WASHINGTON (AA) – President Barack Obama on Thursday encouraged citizens to not discriminate against their fellow Muslim Americans and make them feel as if they are “second-class 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 an Eid al-Fitr reception at the White House.
“For more than two centuries, Muslim Americans of all backgrounds – Arab and Asian, African and Latino, black and white – have helped build America,” he said.
“As farmers and merchants, factory workers, architects, teachers and community leaders. Muslim Americans have enriched our lives every single days.”
And, like Muhammad Ali, he celebrated the athletes, including American fencing champion Ibtijah Muhammad, who he said will be ‘proudly wearing her hijab’ when she represents Team USA at the Rio Olympics.
Eid al-Fitr is a celebration marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims.
“Discriminating against Muslim Americans is also an affront to the very values that already make our nation great,” he said.
The president told young American Muslims in the audience that the U.S. sees them and believes in them.
“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 said.
The President then touched upon the fact that Muslim Americans not only have to fear the ‘threat of terrorism’, like their compatriots, but also the fact that it is their community that is blamed for it.
Obama cited the “heartbreaking letter” he received from 15-year-old Aisha Osman, an Oregon native who was selected to introduce the president after writing a letter about her experiences.
“She told me, ‘There were moments in my life where I would want to just take off my hijab and leave my identity behind so I can fit in with my peers,’” the president told the crowd.
“That’s a young American, full of promise, full of possibility, fearful because of her faith,” the President said.
Obama told the young people in the audience that he wanted them to know one thing: “That we see you, that we believe in you”.
“And, despite what you may sometimes hear, you’ve got to know that you’re a valued part of the American family,” he continued.
The president also stressed that Muslims should be considered as allies in the fight against groups such as Daesh.
“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,” he said. “That’s not smart national security.”