An undergraduate student at the University of Maryland-Baltimore, Sabah Muktar was chosen to introduce President Obama at his historic visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore last month. Her introduction was praised widely throughout the country. She shared her thoughts of the experience with ImanWire:
The reaction to the President’s visit has lead to two polar opposite reactions: one praising his visit as a symbol of inclusion and the other condemning it, considering the foreign policies implemented during his presidency. Everyone has a right to have an opinion, and there is no obviously “correct” reaction. Personally, I think his visit in general is one that is positive. In order for us Muslim Americans to have a say in what is going on in the world, we have to start in our backyards, and that's here in America. We have to be an integrated part of the community, and I think President Obama’s visit reinforces that. It is a blatant message to those out there that have the slightest doubt of our “Americanness,” that not only are we just as American, but also that our voices matter. The concerns of Muslim Americans are and ought to be the concern of America, and to have those ideas spread on a large scale requires time, effort, and acknowledgement from currently respected individuals, and who better to give that acknowledgment than the President of the United States.
One thing that I have learned is people fear that which they do not understand and even more that which they do not know. To most Americans, the little they do know about Muslims is obtained from the media, and I do not think I have to say how the media portrays us. Thus, it is only natural to associate Muslims with terrorists. The visit of our President at the bare minimum made us more credible. It exposed a side of Muslims that most are not used to seeing on their television set. When was the last time the word “peace” was used in the same line that contained “Muslims” in the media? I can’t seem to recall. But I do very vividly remember the President’s speech stressing our religion as a peaceful one. He highlighted some of the accomplishments the Muslim community has contributed to the society. When most of the media tries to alienate us, he emphasized the common beliefs and morals all Americans share. One specific remark that I really loved was when he described our masjid:
“Now, a lot of Americans have never visited a mosque. To the folks watching this today who haven’t -- think of your own church, or synagogue, or temple, and a mosque like this will be very familiar. This is where families come to worship and express their love for God and each other.”
He created an association and I think that is a powerful step forward. Association and finding a common correlation yields to understanding, and understanding leads to acceptance and integration.
On a personal level, this whole event and how it came to be has taught me a great lesson. Imagine the chances of the President willing to visit an American mosque. And from the 50 states, he chose Maryland. And from the 24 counties, he chose Baltimore County. And from the many mosques, he came to Islamic Society of Baltimore. And then imagine the chances, among the so many qualified sisters that could have introduced the President, that I got chosen. It seems impossible. The probability of such an event to occur is just too minute. But yet, it happened. This whole experience made me fathom regardless of how much we plan our lives, only that which Allah wills shall happen. I feel forever grateful. So when people ask me how I felt or how it feels, I don’t have any words that could do justice aside from saying Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God).
By Guest Author , 07 Mar 2016