BALTIMORE: President Barack Obama made his first visit to a US mosque on Wednesday, in an effort to allay the fears of Americans accustomed to pop-culture portrayals of Muslims as terrorists, and to reassure Muslim American youth about their place in the nation.
Obama, declaring that attacks on Islam were an attack on all religions, decried the “inexcusable political rhetoric” against Muslims from Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates.
“We have to understand that an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths,” he said at the mosque outside of Baltimore, which he said had received threats twice in the past year. “When any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up.”
Obama said: “We have to reject politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias and targets people because of religion. None of us can be silent. We can’t be bystanders to bigotry.”
But many Muslims weren’t impressed, accusing Obama of hypocrisy and “anti-Muslim policies,” using the Twitter hashtag #TooLateObama.
For many Muslims on social media, it was too little, too late. People using the #TooLateObama hashtag criticized Obama’s foreign policy, especially the escalation of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The New York Times and other news outlets have reported on the civilian casualties of such drone strikes, describing the act of identifying drone targets as an “imperfect best guess.” Twitter users also faulted Obama for failing to keep his campaign promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Obama thanked Muslims for their contributions to American society during his speech.
“Telling ‘thank you’ to Muslim-Americans isn’t just enough. We still are targets of state violence,” one wrote on Twitter.
Not everyone was critical. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) praised the visit as a sign of progress
“The President’s first visit to an American mosque is a significant step in the right direction and will hopefully encourage our nation’s political and religious leaders to join him in pushing back against rising Islamophobia,” Zainab Chaudry, outreach manager for CAIR Maryland, said in a statement.