Obama speaks out against "those who seek to divide us by religion or race or sect"
President Barack Obama honored several young Muslim-Americans at the White House Monday, including a woman who fought the clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch over its dress code for employees.
The president hosted a traditional Iftar dinner for about 150 guests, including diplomats from majority Muslim nations. Iftar dinners break the daylight-hours fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In his remarks, Obama said that Americans stand united in rejecting the targeting of any religious or ethnic group, the Associated Press reported.
"We affirm that whatever our faith, we’re all one family," Obama said at the East Room dinner, which was also attended by a few members of Congress.
He recognized several young dinner guests, including Samantha Elauf, who went to the Supreme Court to defend her right to wear a headscarf, or hijab. She was 17 in 2008 when she was rejected for a sales job at an Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after wearing a hijab to the interview.
Abercrombie & Fitch said the scarf clashed with its dress code, which called for a “classic East Coast collegiate style.” Elauf had been awarded $20,000 by a jury, but the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, overturned the award, saying, “Ms. Elauf never informed Abercrombie before its hiring decision that she wore her head scarf, or ‘hijab,’ for religious reasons,” The Supreme Court sent the case back to the appeals court for further consideration.
"She was determined to defend the right to wear a hijab—to have the same opportunities as everybody else," Obama said.
The president also spoke of three young Muslims who were killed Feb. 10 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the nine black church members killed last week in Charleston, S.C..
"As Americans, we insist that nobody should be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, who they love, how they worship," he said. "We stand united against these hateful acts."
The Iftar dinner, which continues a tradition started by President Clinton and continued by President George W. Bush, according to the Washington Post.
Obama linked tolerance within the United States to American goals abroad. "These are the freedoms and the ideals, and the values that we uphold," he said. "And it’s more important than ever, because around the world and here at home, there are those who seek to divide us by religion or race or sect."