Sen. Marco Rubio accused the president of 'pitting people against each other' in Obama's visit to a mosque this week.
On Wednesday, he finally visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore, and much of the right’s reaction is validating those suspicions. There was some outright dishonesty, like Donald Trump’s implication that Obama is a Muslim: “Maybe he feels comfortable there.” (Memo to The Donald: He didn’t do this until the eighth year of his presidency.) That’s standard Trump fare. More surprising was Marco Rubio’s response:
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.
Reading Rubio’s remarks, anyone who heard Obama must have thought, “Did he watch the same speech I did?” The answer is most likely not: Rubio is in the middle of a hectic New Hampshire campaign swing, and it’s hard to imagine he spent an hour watching Obama speak. Suffice it to say that the president’s address bore little resemblance to Rubio’s description.
Obama’s speech did speak about incidents of Islamophobia, about slurs and attacks on Muslims and mosques in the U.S. Those accounts are factually true, and the sense of fear among American Muslims—whether one regards it as justified or not—is real. But rather than blame all Americans, Obama said this:
Your fellow Americans stand with you …. That’s not unusual. 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.
Obama’s comments about Islamic extremism were carefully nuanced, but they hardly ignored the problem of radical Islam. He did take a shot at Republicans who criticize him for not referring to “Islamic terrorists” as much as they’d like, but he also said, “It is undeniable that a small fraction of Muslims propagate a perverted interpretation of Islam.”
(In the past, Obama has been more reluctant to make that connection, leading to the tortured spectacle of a Christian U.S. president trying to adjudicate Muslim orthodoxy.) He spoke about the need for religious freedom and pluralism at home and abroad, called for Muslims to condemn persecution of Christians in the Middle East, and decried anti-Semitism in Europe—all rebukes of certain strains of Muslim preaching and thought.
When spoken in other contexts, these ideas are mainstays of conservative rhetoric. Religious freedom has been an important rallying cry for American conservatives upset by changing laws on gay equality. Obama mentioned the persecution of Christians during Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast, without raising Republican ire.
In fact, Rubio’s charge of divisiveness only makes sense if one believes that Islam is inherently incompatible with American values. Obama explicitly rejected this view Wednesday, speaking of all the ways that Islam has been a part of the United States since colonial times, and telling his audience, “You’re not Muslim or American. You’re Muslim and American.” (The idea that Islam, a long-standing part of the national culture, is not American echoes arguments that white culture is somehow the “true” American culture, and African American culture is separable from it.)
That antipathy is relatively new. Obama’s words, in fact, bore a close resemblance to President George W. Bush’s remarks after 9/11, when he called Islam a religion of peace and criticized discrimination and attacks against American Muslims. (Bush’s brother Jeb notably voiced support for Obama’s mosque visit Wednesday, speaking with some passion about inclusion—and criticizing the president for taking so long to get to a mosque, just as many American Muslims criticized Obama.)
So what changed? Why were those 2001 comments by a Republican president welcomed, while Obama’s very similar comments today were not? Part of it is surely partisanship. But Americans have also become less and less accepting of Islam. When PRRI asked the same question in 2011, for example, just 47 percent of Americans agreed that Islam was incompatible with American values, and 48 percent disagreed.let's be real the angst toward Muslim Americans and Muslim as a whole is and has been fueled by republican bigots they are and always have been the voice of division when other spoke up they do what they do blame them for the racial divisiveness that permeates this country they preach hate and separatism and exclusion of those not like them and constantly encourage their base to to do so too and spread the word. that by virtue of itself is dividing us clearly republicans see division as others not agreeing with their despicable racially charged rhetoric, pot kettle syndrome.
as to what changed the presidents race and party we have recognized for years he does not get their respect and all that used to be another day at the office has become stymied, obstructed, not even recognized as worth a vote all in keeping their pledge of 2008 before he took office that they would do nothing to assist him even help clean up their mess which they now try to blame him for.
they called themselves hurting him make him a one term Pres. but face it he's done extraordinarily well in the face of republican denial and who they aimed their arrows at only deflected to we the people they hurt and disenfranchised millions of Americans trying to be petty and deny the first Black Pres. i think they thought if they destroyed him Americans would think twice about another Pres. of color sick bigoted depravity does that to your mind.