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Mark Pocan: President Obama should tackle anti-Muslim rhetoric in State of the Union

Jan 12, 2016
In The News

Wisconsin State Journal

By Mark Sommerhauser

Congressman Mark Pocan says President Barack Obama should counter what he calls anti-Muslim statements by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and others in Tuesday night's State of the Union Address.

Pocan, D-Black Earth, is joining 19 other members of Congress in what they call a collective response to Republican anti-Muslim rhetoric. The lawmakers, all Democrats, are inviting Muslim Americans to be their guests to the State of the Union Address.

Pocan has invited City of Madison Ald. Samba Baldeh, who represents parts of the city's far east and north sides. Baldeh, who is Muslim and a native of Gambia, was elected to the city council last year.

Speaking to the Wisconsin State Journal from Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Pocan said he hopes Obama will address what he called "hate speech" against Muslims by Trump and other GOP presidential candidates. Trump has proposed a temporary ban on Muslims traveling to the U.S. anddiscussed the possibility of creating a database of Muslims in the U.S.

Pocan said Baldeh's presence at the event shows Muslims are valuable members of the Dane County community.

"Samba, to me, is the face of a Muslim American in our area," Pocan said.

Baldeh said he believes most Americans reject Trump's views on Muslims in the U.S. But Baldeh said he is concerned that Trump's remarks could help such views enter the mainstream.

"What I'm afraid of is the normalization of what Donald Trump is saying," Baldeh said.

Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis, who is Muslim, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, have urged all members of Congress to invite Muslims to the State of the Union Address to show “the world that we will not be intimidated by fear into discrimination.”

Among other Wisconsin lawmakers, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, invited Britney Woods, a college student from Racine, to the State of the Union Address. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, invited Pastor Jerome Smith, a Milwaukee pastor at Greater Praise Church of God in Christ.