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White House Backs Cairo Speech With Youtube Video

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
In an effort to supplement President Obama's speech in Cairo Thursday morning, the White House released a Youtube video on the lives of three Muslim-Americans employed by the federal government.

Participants in the video reflect on being an American as well as a Muslim in a way that echoes Mr. Obama's statement that "America and Islam…share common principles -- principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

"To me, there's no contradiction between being an American, between being a Muslim," Afeefa Syeed, a senior advisor for culture and development at USAID, says in the video. "To be an American Muslim simply to me means that you're practicing your faith through the lens of an American identity. The comfort zone that I have is here in America because of this simple seamless connection between the two identities that forge in to one."

All three featured Muslim Americans are young, two of them are women, and all have worked in America while preserving their Islamic culture. Rashad Hussain, a deputy associate counsel to the president, says in the video that the principles of Islam are not exclusive to Muslims, but are inter-faith values.

"There's a prophetic tradition in our faith that if you see something that's objectionable, you should change it with your hands. And if you are unable to change it with your hands, then you should speak out against, change it with your tongue. And if you are unable to do that, then that means you should dislike it in your heart," Hussein says. "I think that's a value that's shared by people of all faiths and informs my work."

Both Syeed and Lema Bashir, a trial attorney in the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice, have family members that immigrated to the United States. Syeed herself emigrated from war-torn Kashmir at a young age and wears the hajib.

Bashir notes that Arab-Americans are becoming significantly more active in the political process because of their recognition that America is their country.

"You have a background, you come from somewhere. Your family comes from somewhere. We all do. But we also need to understand - and people are understanding - that living here means getting involved in the process and everyone benefits from that," Bashir says in the video.

"Since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States," President Obama said in Cairo. "They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they've excelled in our sports arenas, they've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch."

He also pointed out that one of the United States' founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, kept a Quran in his personal library, the same Quran on which Representative Keith Ellison took the Oath of Office in 2005.

The video is a little more than three minutes long and available with subtitles in many languages, including Persian, Arabic, and French. Key points to Mr. Obama's speech can be found here.

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