President Barack Obama and his administration have long defended and promoted Islam in a bid to fight Islamophobia, most famously in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine earlier this year.
His controversial remarks have drawn criticism from Christians, members of the military, historians, and more, especially after he went so far as to openly criticize Christianity at a National Prayer Breakfast, warning the faithful not to get on a "high horse."
Gathered below are eight times Obama or members of his administration have won praise from Muslims and Muslim groups for defending and promoting Islam.
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1. Obama bans pork from prisons
— This month, the Bureau of Prisons removed all pork items from the cafeterias of the 122 federal penitentiaries it runs, upsetting The National Pork Producers Council and winning praise from The Council on American-Islamic Relations. "In general we welcome the change because it’s facilitating the accommodation of Muslim inmates," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said, noting that observant Muslims are banned from eating pork, according to The Washington Post
. "We hope it's not an indication of an increasing number of Muslims in the prison system."
2. Obama defends Ahmed Mohamed and his clock
— After bringing a home-assembled clock to school that teachers mistook for a bomb, high school freshman Ahmed Mohamed was detained by police. After no charges were brought, Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Mark Zuckerberg all praised Mohamed for his inventiveness. Soon after, however, several IT experts noted that the clock appeared to have been purchased at Radio Shack, and placed into a pencil case, prompting some to suggest Mohamed meant to make a hoax bomb, The Daily Beast reported
3. Obama prioritizes fighting Islamophobia over fighting radical Islam
— After a private meeting with Muslim leaders in February, several sources said that Obama told the gathered group that he will work to stem what he perceives as a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. As National Review reported
, that mission was framed as being more important that calling out and destroying radical Islam itself.
4. Obama uses NASA to promote Islam
— In 2010, NASA chief Charles Bolden told the Arabic news network Al-Jazeera that the president had asked him to make Muslims "feel good," reported Space.com
. "When I became the NASA administrator, [Obama] charged me with three things," Bolden said. "One, he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering."
5. After ISIS beheadings, Kerry promotes "real Islam"
— Secretary of State John Kerry said in 2014
that America "has to start major efforts to delegitimize ISIS’s claim to some religious foundation for what it’s doing and begin to put real Islam out there and draw lines throughout the region." Kerry's comments came not long after Egyptian leader General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said in a speech that "the Islamic world is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost" by Muslim extremists like ISIS.
6. Obama styles himself as America's Islam professor
— "My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives," Obama said in an interview with Al-Arabiya in 2009, according to Breitbart.com
. "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy."
7. Obama blames Benghazi terror attacks on Islamophobic YouTube video
— The 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was carried out by militia leader Ahmed Abu Khattala, a leader of terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia, however Obama and Clinton's State Department initially said the attack was a response to an Islamophobic YouTube video called "Innocence of Muslims." Obama said in a speech the "crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity."
8. Obama allows Yemenis to stay in U.S.
— In September, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) praised the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for designating Temporary Protective Status for Yemeni nationals currently in the U.S. The designation was granted just months after Yemen fell into civil war this spring, where Western diplomats were forced to flee their embassies as they were commandeered by rebels.
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