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US: Muslims invited to Obama speech amid anti-Islamic rhetoric

By Kasım İleri,Muhammed Bilal Kenasari, For The Muslim News, On 13 January 2016, Read Original
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[Photo: US President Barack Obama delivers his 8th and final State of the Union address to the Nation during a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, USA on January 12, 2016.Photographer: Samuel Corum/AA]

 

WASHINGTON (AA) – The Democratic Party is sending a strong message that Muslims are “part of the U.S. fabric,” by inviting them to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday, says one such Muslim.

American Muslim Nazer Hamze, who received an invitation, described it as “historic”.

Muslims may have been invited to previous State of the Union speeches, where the president lays out his agenda for the country but this year’s address comes amid rising anti-Muslim rhetoric, fuelled particularly by Republican presidential candidates in the wake of terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

“We are police officers, doctors, judges, and teachers. And I am honored to be part of the event,” said Hamze. “It will be a fresh air after such an anti-Muslim rhetoric by the Republican Party,” added Hamze, who is also head of the Florida chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relation’s (CAIR) – a Muslims civil rights organization.

Hamze was invited to attend Obama’s final State of the Union address by Rep. Alcee Hastings.

CAIR is an outspoken critic of anti-Muslim rhetoric by Republican presidential candidates including, front-runner Donald Trump, who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

The organization also demanded Dr. Ben Carson drop from the race after he said that he would not support a Muslim president.

Carson later called for a federal investigation into CAIR and that the group be held exempt from federal tax grants, accusing the organization of supporting Daesh.

Hamze said a Muslim presence on Capitol Hill will allow Americans to see that Muslims are “just like anyone else”.

“It will change public opinion to some extent,” he said. “But of course nothing can be done to those who hate Muslims.”

Sameena Usman, head of CAIR’s California Chapter, who is also invited to the speech Tuesday night, told Anadolu Agency that “Muslims contribution to this society needs to be recognized,” noting that she is honored by the invitation.

Usman, invited by Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, added that Muslims are part of the U.S. but the “hateful rhetoric against Muslims” divides the American society.

“We have hundreds of people all around America calling our offices and asking for help, because their rights have been violated,” she said. “We need to protect and defend people’s rights, if that’s called ‘un-American’ I don’t know what would be ‘American’.”

Her comments came as Carson, earlier in day, denounced Muslims’ attendance at the president’s address.

“They’ve invited members of CAIR, the Council for American-Islamic Relations. These are people who I have called for an investigation of. They have done things that are clearly, you know, not pro-American. And we can’t now sit there and say these are buddy buddies of ours,” Carson told CNN.

Carson accused CAIR of attempting to change the U.S. “from a Judeo-Christian foundation to a Muslim foundation”.

Usman warned that some Republicans may misuse Muslims’ appearance at the high profile speech, making it a part of some sort of anti-Democrat propaganda.

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota — the first Muslim elected to Congress, and a Jewish member of the party, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida last month encouraged House members to take Muslims as guests to the State of the Union address.

Dozens of lawmakers have made the commitment, according to Ellison’s office.