In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama used the words of Pope Francis during his visit last fall to strengthen his call for further openness, specifically toward Muslims in the United States, and as a challenge, particularly to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.
“We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion,” Obama said. “This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity, and our openness, and the way we respect every faith.”
His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.” When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.
The Obama administration, however, has made many gestures in deference to Muslims in the United States.
A recent “guidance” letter from the U.S. Department of Education (USED), for example, warned school leaders against “targeting of particular students for harassment or blame, particularly Muslim and Syrian refugee students,” the latter of which even the U.S. State Department says are mostly Muslims.
The letter from USED comes following a 2014 survey conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that claims it found 55 percent of Muslim youth reported being “bullied” at school because of their Islamic religion during this past year.
According to USED:
In response to recent and ongoing issues, we also urge you to anticipate the potential challenges that may be faced by students who are especially at risk of harassment — including those who are, or are perceived to be, Syrian, Muslim, Middle Eastern, or Arab, as well as those who are Sikh, Jewish, or students of color. For example, classroom discussions and other school activities should be structured to help students grapple with current events and conflicting viewpoints in constructive ways, and not in ways that result in the targeting of particular students for harassment or blame.
In December, Attorney General Loretta Lynch also urged Muslim parents to contact both the Justice Department and USED if they think their children are being “bullied” in school. She did not, however, call upon Christian or Jewish parents, or those of other faiths, to contact her if their children are “bullied.”
The attempt to further appease Muslims was apparent leading up to Obama’s State of the Union address in the call by Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Muslim-American Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). Both urged Democrats to challenge Donald Trump’s recommendation that the United States temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States—for security purposes—by inviting a Muslim-American as a guest to the State of the Union address.