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President Obama Visits Baltimore Mosque; Focuses on Embracing All Muslim Americans

by Michael Toumayan February 04, 2016

President Barack Obama visited a mosque in Baltimore, Maryland, yesterday, marking his first visit to a U.S. mosque during his presidency. His visit comes at a critical time for Muslims everywhere. While some GOP presidential candidates are pledging anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim policies, Obama’s visit to a mainstream mosque represents an historic and complicated  occasion.

“I know that in Muslim communities across our country, this is a time of concern and, frankly, a time of some fear. Like all Americans, you’re worried about the threat of terrorism,” he told the 200 person crowd. “But on top of that, as Muslim Americans, you also have another concern -- and that is your entire community so often is targeted or blamed for the violent acts of the very few.”

This outright hostility President Obama spoke about no doubt touches the lives of Muslims who identify as LGBTQ. Many LGBTQ Muslims suffer double victimization as their experience of prejudice is felt in the LGBTQ community and society at large, as well as in their faith communities.

To combat this hostility and prejudice, HRC Foundation released “Coming Home to Islam and to Self,” a guide to help LGBTQ Muslims who are seeking to reconnect with their faith and build more inclusive communities.

Before his remarks at one of the largest mosques in the Mid-Atlantic region, Obama met with a range of Muslim community leaders, friends of the LGBTQ community -- like  Farhana Khera, president of Muslim Advocates, and Palestinian-American comedian Dean Obeidallah -- and opponents, like Imam Yaseen Shaikh, a controversial and resident scholar at the Islamic Society of Baltimore who has publicly condemned LGBTQ people, calling them “immoral” and “shameful.”

Despite the long way to go toward fully inclusive spaces for LGBTQ Muslims, Obama’s visit and remarks demonstrates his determination to reject bigotry and highlight the strength of America that lies in our collective humanity and tolerance.

“In our lives, we all have many identities.  We are sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters.  We’re classmates; Cub Scout troop members.  We’re followers of our faith.  We’re citizens of our country,” Obama said. “ And today, there are voices in this world, particularly over the Internet, who are constantly claiming that you have to choose between your identities -- as a Muslim, for example, or an American.  Do not believe them.  If you’re ever wondering whether you fit in here, let me say it as clearly as I can, as President of the United States:  You fit in here -- right here.  You’re right where you belong.  You’re part of America, too. You’re not Muslim or American.  You’re Muslim and American.”

HRC Foundation’s "Coming Home to Islam and To Self" embraces all aspects of one’s identity and experience, featuring the inspirational personal journeys of several American Muslims. The guide includes the stories of a transgender woman who has maintained her Muslim identity and relationship with God, a lesbian seeking a path back from spiritual disillusionment and two gay friends working patiently with their families to become more accepting and affirming.

Michael Toumayan
Michael Toumayan


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