During his final State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama carved out around two minutes from his 58-minute speech to touch on the rise of Islamophobic rhetoric that’s been sweeping the nation.
As Obama spoke optimistically about America’s future, he also took clear aim at the Republican party and its leading presidential front-runner Donald Trump for inciting fear and anti-Muslim sentiment.
“When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad, or fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it what—telling it like it is, it’s just wrong,” Obama said on Tuesday. “It betrays who we are as a country.”
Just three days before Obama’s address, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab was escorted out of Trump’s campaign rally in South Carolina after she stood up in silent protest when the GOP candidate suggested that Syrian refugees fleeing war in Syria were affiliated with terrorist group ISIS. Trump has also previously called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S.
Since getting ejected from Trump’s event, Rose Hamid—a 56-year-old flight attendant and Muslim activist—said she’s not looking for an apology; she just wants people to know that “Muslims are not the enemy.”
Hamid’s message lies at the crux of the struggle faced by Muslim Americans right now: how to dismantle the idea that there is a clear link between the Muslim faith—Islam—and terrorists like ISIS.