President Barack Obama delivered an inspiring speech yesterday to the NAACP at a celebration marking the civil rights group’s 100th anniversary.
In the address, the President called upon African-Americans to take matters into their own hands for a better future while urging older African-Americans to push young people to aspire to do more, “our kids can’t all aspire to be LeBron or Lil Wayne,” the President said.
Rightfully, the President also recognized the legacy of institutionalized racism that still pervades American society today. He noted:
The pain of discrimination is still felt in America. By African American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues of a different color and a different gender. By Latinos made to feel unwelcome in their own country. By Muslim Americans viewed with suspicion simply because they kneel down to pray to their God. By our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights.
What strikes me as irksome in this otherwise well intentioned paragraph was the bit about Muslim-Americans. The President said that Muslims are viewed with suspicion because “they kneel down to pray to their God.” Or in other words, “their” separate God, who (perhaps in President Obama’s mind) even has a name which happens to be Allah. Ugh.
As a closeted Muslim, President Obama should know that Muslims believe that they worship the same God (capital “G” God) as Christians and Jews and as such, no matter how well intentioned, the President was wrong to use the phrase “their God” in his speech to the NAACP. By doing this, the President (unintentionally I am sure) has helped to further solidify in the minds of American people, the “otherness” of Muslims throughout the world and at home.
Next time the President speaks of Islam he should remember this bit from the Koran which states for believers,
“Do not argue with the people of the scripture [ie, Jews and Christians] except in the nicest possible manner - unless they transgress - and say, ‘We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you, and our god and your god is one and the same; to Him we are submitters.’” (Quran 29:46)