US Muslims feel discriminated against by Obama
US President Barack Obama’s call for American Muslims to help “root out” extremism in their communities has drawn criticism from Islamic centers and mosques.
In a prime-time Oval Office address on Sunday, Obama called on Muslim community to help confront extremism in their midst following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, which killed 14 people.
“If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate,” the president said. “That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. It’s a real problem that Muslims must confront without excuse.”
Obama’s request was followed by a similar appeal from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
“It is unfair to speak about the Muslim community in this way,” said Mustafa Kamel, the imam of the West Coast Islamic Center in Anaheim, southern California, Reuters reports.
Two 24-year-old men, who had worshiped in mosques in that part of California, were arrested in May accused of conspiring to aid the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group.
Imams and mosque workers said the arrested men were victims of biased law enforcement.
“There is a lot of suspicion of the FBI here,” said Kamel, an immigrant from Egypt who came to the US 13 years ago.
The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California also criticized Obama’s request, arguing it singled out Muslims.
The council’s executive director, Shakeel Syed, questioned why US leaders did ask Christian churches to self-police for white supremacists after nine African-Americans were shot to death at a church in Charleston, South Carolina in June.
“Asking Muslims to do this is offensive. There is a collective responsibility to address this,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters.
At the Islamic Institute of Orange County in Anaheim, the mosque’s imam, Mohammed Faqih, said he also found Obama’s comments offensive.
“I didn’t like that,” Faqih said. “In these cases such as San Bernardino, the mosques did not play a role. They are loners who got radicalized at home, in front of the Internet. If we suspect anybody, we call it in straight away to the FBI.”
The US has been gripped by a new wave of Islamophobia, fueled to a large degree by anti-Muslim rhetoric in the presidential campaign.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump provoked a firestorm Monday by calling for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Muslims across the country say they are experiencing a wave of death threats, assaults and vandalism unlike anything they have experienced since the September 11, 2001 attacks.