If plain speaking makes you uncomfortable, don’t invite Barack Obama to talk. His remarks at the recent National Prayer Breakfast caused outrage from conservative journalists, namely Fox News pundits and Mike Huckabee.
Evoking the Golden Rule, Obama said, “The Torah says, ‘Love thy neighbor as yourself;’ in Islam, there is a Hadith that states, ‘None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself;’ the Holy Bible tells us to ‘put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.’
“Here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom — freedom of religion — the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.”
Former governor and potential presidential contender Huckabee spoke on Fox News calling Obama’s speech “Nothing short of shocking,” insinuating Muslims are the “one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support,” while columnist Star Parker, also via Fox, termed the speech “verbal rape.”
But Obama made clear distinctions between faith and fury: “We have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who […] professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism.”
Rationally, he added, “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
It seems we aren’t allowed to think of those things, nor, it seems, are we to assume America is home to any other religions than Christianity. The Crusades are long past, but Jim Crow is not; nor the Birmingham Church Bombing (1963), nor the Atlanta Temple Bombing (1966), and so on to Ferguson.
President Obama simply stated what is, and for that, for some, he is not to be forgiven. If we, as Americans, cannot look clearly at how those in this country, from indigenous peoples onward, have fared at the hands of believers, we will be no closer to an end to discrimination.