President Obama Has Some Words For Anti-Islam Protesters That Everybody Needs To Hear
On Monday night, President Obama marked the occasion of a holy month for more than 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, and he had a message, too: Obama celebrated Ramadan with an Iftar dinner at the White House — the sunset meal in which observant Muslims break their fast each day during the holy month — and included a public plea for some people to "stop yelling and start listening" when it comes to their perceptions of Muslims.
As detailed by The Washington Post, the White House has a reasonably long history of hosting Iftars, this being its 18th year running. The annual ritual originated during former President Bill Clinton's tenure, and continued through the Bush and Obama administrations. Ramadan didn't actually begin on Monday, to be clear — while precise dates vary depending on different calendars, it started last week, and will run one month into mid-July.
Obama also specifically cited public examples of Muslims standing up for their religious freedoms, in spite of considerable obstacles — as ABC News detailed, he referenced the story of Samantha Elauf, a young Muslim woman who brought a successful Supreme Court case against Abercrombie and Fitch over her wearing of a hijab.
She was determined to defend the right to wear a hijab — to have the same opportunities as everybody else. She went all the way to the Supreme Court — which I didn't do at her age — and she won.
It's been a pretty tumultuous time for American Muslims lately. Beyond just the reflexive state of a lot of anti-Muslim paranoia that's been in full force since 9/11 — Islamophobia is probably how you've heard it termed — recent events in Arizona have ratcheted up tensions as well. Late last month, hundreds of anti-Islam activists engaged in an armed protest of a Phoenix-area mosque, which the mosque's president equated to the attitudes of "Nazis or neo-Nazis."
According to USA Today, in fact, Obama specifically related the story of one member of that vehement protest, who accepted the mosque's invitation to attend evening prayers, and came away with a very changed opinion of things.
One demonstrator, who accepted the invitation later, described how the experience changed him; how he finally saw the Muslim American community for what it is — peaceful and welcoming.That's what can happen when we stop yelling and start listening.
Obama also made note of other young Muslims who've made big imprints in fighting discrimination — like New Jersey high school student Ziad Ahmed, for example, who created an anti-discrimination website called Redefy, and Batoul Abuharb, a former refugee and Houston resident who started a health organization to aid vaccine distribution in Gaza.
All in all, it was a night with a valuable message, and some very well-deserving attendees. Make no mistake, while events like these might not matter much in the minds of many of those Phoenix mosque protesters, say, they serve as an important moment of reminder that we've yet to find full, true acceptance for our Muslim friends and neighbors.
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