UMBC’s Sabah Muktar ‘17, biological sciences, delivered the opening remarks introducing President Barack Obama during his historic visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB) on February 3, 2016. The high profile event was President Obama’s first visit to a mosque during his presidency.
Muktar, an ISB member, found out just one day before the event that community members had selected her to introduce the president, in a visit that she described as a “gesture that invites inclusiveness of all faiths and color.”
During her speech, she spoke candidly and thoughtfully about her American and Muslim identities. “We are all Americans, and as such, we are all obligated to uphold the rights of every individual,” said Muktar, referring to the right to religious freedom and importance of valuing diverse identities and forms of expression.
Muktar shared stories of her experience growing up in a welcoming Baltimore County community, particularly during her teenage years at Pikesville High School, when she began wearing the hijab. “Never did I feel as though I wasn’t a part of the community,” she said. “I was just as American, and just another high schooler.”
“Thank you, Mr. President,” Muktar concluded, “for this historic visit that will serve to inspire every American to engage in the work of building bridges across communities.”
Sabah Muktar’s remarks were covered widely in the news media, including on ABC News, Voice of America, NPR, and in TIME. Both CNN and Vox posted full video of her comments and the speech by President Obama that followed, with CNN featuring the Muktar’s remarks in the story “Muslim student’s powerful Obama introduction,” and Vox titling their video “Muslim woman’s touching speech during Obama’s first public visit to a US mosque.”
Muktar was also interviewed by CBS Baltimore (WJZ) in a video titled “UMBC Junior Introduces President Obama Before Historic Speech.”
“The experience has been such a privilege,” reflects Muktar. “Having the President of the United States come to our local mosque is the ultimate assurance that regardless of a person’s faith or color, if you’re an American, you are an American.”
All eight core organizers of the event at the Islamic Society of Baltimore are current students or alumni of UMBC. Muktar credits her involvement in campus life, including UMBC’s Interfaith Center and Muslim Student Association, with leading to her opportunity to introduce President Obama. As a Sherman Scholar at UMBC, Muktar is committed to a career in science supporting underserved communities.
Image: Sabah Muktar ’17, who delivered the opening remarks during President Obama’s visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.