By Victor Ochieng
The constitution of the United States gives citizens freedom of religion. This is something that President Barack Obama has talked about every time he gets an opportunity to do so.
In one of his previous speeches, he mentioned the rising Islamophobia following attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California by extremists attached to the dreaded ISIS. The president pointed out that these are bad elements and shouldn’t be used to cast blanket blame on all members of the Muslim faith, saying they’re our brothers and sisters.
To illuminate the importance of religious freedom, the president, for the first time since taking office, visited a U.S. mosque, the Islamic Society of Baltimore, where he called for religious tolerance and mentioned how American diversity remains its strength.
He cited that his visit to the mosque was as a celebration of the contribution of American Muslims in the country’s development, and further said it’s a way to “reaffirm our commitment to freedom of religion.”
“Our Founders knew that religious liberty is essential not only to protect religion, but because religion helps strengthen our nation,” Obama said. “From our Revolution to the abolition of slavery, from women’s rights to civil rights, men and women of faith have often helped move our nation closer to our founding ideals. This progress is part of what makes us a beacon to the world.”
The president pointed out some of the roles Muslim Americans play, including serving as teachers, soldiers, nurses and doctors, as well as champions in sports, mentioning Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Without a doubt, religious intolerance has led to widespread fear among members of the Islam faith, particularly after the recent attacks in the U.S. and France. Following the attacks, some Muslims have been assaulted, mosques vandalized, kids bullied, and some people within the political class have outright attacked Muslims. That makes the environment unfriendly yet these are people we’ve lived with for years.
“When any part of our American family is made to feel isolated or targeted, it tears at the very fabric of our nation,” Obama said. “So we have to tackle this problem together, head-on.”
The president has appealed to all Americans not to fall for the tricks of America’s enemies, saying this is the time to show them that we’re “all God’s children, all born equal with inherent dignity.”
Obama further said that it shouldn’t just end with “mere tolerance,” as Americans of all faiths should strive to reach out to others with their faith to create a better understanding of the different religions in the country.
“As Americans, we have to stay true to our core values, and that includes freedom of religion for all faiths,” he said, adding that “an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths.”