I am a Bible-believing Christian. As such, I believe that Islam is fundamentally and profoundly wrong in its theological teachings. But, because I am a Bible-believing Christian, I also believe that Americans must treat the Muslims among us with the same respect, dignity, and acceptance we want for ourselves.
President Obama goes to a mosque with a message of inclusion for Muslim Americans
President Barack Obama just visited an Islamic mosque in Baltimore. He gave a speech that most who heard it saw as “a message of tolerance and inclusion.” But GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio didn’t see it that way. To him Mr. Obama was once again dividing the nation by choosing to bring a positive and inclusive message to Muslims.
The President wanted to reassure Muslim Americans that other Americans accept them as part of the fabric of the nation:
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.
Mr. Obama acknowledged, however, that in the wake of terrorist attacks that have taken place around the world, many American Muslims are feeling that they are not truly accepted here:
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.
Finally, the President wanted his hearers, and especially young people, to know that not only are American Muslims included in the national family, they are valued and supported by the other members of that family.
And as we go forward, I want every Muslim American to remember you are not alone. Your fellow Americans stand with you . . . 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.
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.
I found the speech positive and uplifting, a great expression of fundamental American values. As a committed Christian, I think the president spoke a profound truth when he said:
We have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths. And when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up.
Watch the President’s speech for yourself
Marco Rubio’s surprising response to the President’s speech
Perhaps I am politically naïve, but I was astounded when I saw Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio’s response to the president’s speech. Without apparently having even heard the speech (the presidential candidate was electioneering in New Hampshire, and his campaign refused to affirm that he took time out to watch the speech), Sen. Rubio found in the president’s visit to a mosque an opportunity to launch a vicious attack accusing the country’s leader of dividing the nation:
I’m tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president’s done. 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 discrimination in America, of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam. This constant pitting people against each other, I can’t stand that. It’s hurting our country badly.
Sen. Rubio’s words denigrate the President and disrespect American Muslims
I find Sen. Rubio’s remarks profoundly disturbing. Not because he disagrees with the president – that’s to be expected – but because his words show absolutely no understanding, compassion, or sympathy for what fellow Americans who happen to be Muslim are experiencing in these difficult days. He was more concerned about playing to a constituency that is deeply suspicious of all Muslims.
In criticizing Mr. Obama, in the harshest terms, for going to a mosque and assuring American Muslims that they are an integral part of the American family, Sen. Rubio was saying that treating Muslims who live in this country as if they are just as American as anybody else is somehow subverting the unity of the nation.
Frankly, had Donald Trump said what Sen. Rubio did, I wouldn’t pay it a lot of attention. But Marco Rubio makes a big point of identifying himself as a Christian. To me, the message of intolerance he is sending not just to Muslims, but to the nation as a whole, is far from a Christian one.
© 2016 Ronald E. Franklin
Barack Obama: Chuck Kennedy (Official White House photo) via Wikimedia (Public Domain)
Marco Rubio: Jamelle Bouie via flickr (CC BY 2.0)