With all the controversy surrounding whether he himself is actually a Muslim, US President Barack Obama visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a 47-year-old mosque with thousands of attendees, for the first time ever during his presidency.
He stated that the purpose of his visit was to speak out against "inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim-Americans" from Republican presidential candidates. Whether you approve of him or not, few can deny Obama's oratory skills, and they were on full display during his soaring speech about American Muslims and how they are essential to the fabric of America.
"Let me say as clearly as I can as president of the United States: you fit right here," Obama
declared to the crowd's applause. "You're right where you belong. You're part of America too. You're not Muslim or American. You're Muslim and American."
Although Obama's rhetoric in support of Muslim-Americans is nothing new, his choice of location very much was. The president has been consistent in condemning acts of violence against Muslims in America, and has been a vocal critic of the Republican presidential candidates' hate speech, but this week marked Obama's first official mosque visit in the US.
But even before Obama entered the mosque, I already had my mind made up: Too little, too
In my opinion, there are very few positives one can make about the Bush Administration, but
despite how much instability their foreign policy caused in the Middle East, George W. Bush
was quick about holding a press conference at Washington's Islamic Center days after
September 11th. What took Obama so long?
Yes, certainly Obama has not had an easy path to a mosque. Over 29% of Americans believe
Obama is a Muslim, and the numbers amongst Republicans who think this is true is higher at
While it is sad that today in America being called a Muslim is considered an insult is sad in itself,
but that is the current reality, as unfortunate as that is. However, as soon as Obama began speaking my mind began to change itself. This speech emphasized, amongst other things, how proud Americans should be proud of their Muslim brothers and sisters.
It many ways, it made me think that perhaps Obama's speech could not have been better timed. Anti-Muslim rhetoric is at an all time high, much greater than it was during his first term, and Republican candidates are running on anti-Muslim sentiment as a major political platform for their base.
Which makes Obama's speech all the more significant and relevant. The man in charge of America, its highest position, US Ambassador to the world spent 45 minutes in a mosque speaking about the freedom to worship, love, equality and the need for one nation to respect all values.
At the end of the day, the significance and beauty of this speech cannot be overstated.
Of course, critics of the president were quick to comment. Republican Candidate for president, Marco Rubio accused Obama of playing divisive politics.
"I'm tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president's done," Rubio said. "Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today - he gave a speech at a mosque...basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there's going to be discrimination in America of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam."
As always with politics, balance is key in the game. Not even 48 hours after his historic mosque visit, Obama addressed the nation at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, staying with the theme of overcoming fear through faith, while reaffirming his Christian identity.
"Fear can lead us to lash out against those who are different or lead us to try to get some sinister 'other' under control," Obama said. "Alternatively, fear can lead us to succumb to despair or paralysis or cynicism. Fear can feed our most selfish impulses and erode the bonds of community. "Faith is the great cure for fear."
The need to protect America as a place to practice your faith in peace and freedom, has perhaps never been greater.