American Muslims to Obama: ‘Charity Begins at Home’

By Penny Starr | April 6, 2009 | 6:02 PM EDT

Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Washington-based Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation, challenged President Barack Obama at a press conference Monday in Washington, D.C., to build bridges with Muslim Americans like he did by visiting the predominately Muslim country of Turkey during his recent European trip abroad. (Photo by Penny starr/

( – A coalition of American Muslim groups praised President Barack Obama’s speech in Turkey on Sunday as a sign of improving relations between the United States and Muslims around the world, but some charged that Obama is ignoring the faithful in his own country.
“We support and we do encourage the president to reach out to the Muslim world,” Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Washington-based Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation, said Monday at the National Press Club. “But as my grandmother once said, charity begins at home.”
Bray was one of the panelists representing American Muslim groups that are part of the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, which sponsored the press conference.
“Indeed, we do welcome the president’s outreach to the millions of Muslims around the world,” Bray said. “We think he has charted a new course as it relates to at least the beginning of relationships with Muslims and the Muslim world.”
“However, we feel it is just as important that the president gives serious consideration and outreach to the millions of American Muslims right here at home,” Bray said. “President Obama has visited houses of worship. He’s visited churches, he’s visited synagogues, but other than ‘yes we can,’ we say, ‘yes he can’ visit a mosque here in America.”
Bray said that if Obama visits an American mosque he would find people who support his presidency and who are concerned about issues like health care, jobs, energy and education.
He also claimed that federal law-enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice, unfairly target and prosecute American Muslims.
Bray called for Obama to end the federal policies put in place by George W. Bush that he said are “attacks on the American people’s civil rights and civil liberties, especially within the American Muslim community.”
Bray further said Obama needs to understand the people who are Americans and Muslims.
“He needs to come on down and have a relationship with the American-Muslim community and engage the American-Muslim community,” Bray said.
Other groups that are members of the task force include the American Muslim Alliance, American Muslims for Palestine, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Circle of North America, Muslim Alliance in North America, Muslim Student Association-National, Muslim Ummah of North America and United Muslims of America.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney and a founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice, and North Carolina State Senator Larry Shaw, a Democrat and a Muslim, also were on the panel.