The Arab American News: Senator Peters applauds Obama for inclusion

DEARBORN — Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) praised President Obama's final State of the Union Address, applauding the commander in chief for explicitly condemning anti-Muslim rhetoric.

"I was pleased that he made very strong and very emphatic statements that really appeal to who we are as Americans," Peters told The Arab American News. "This country has always been about welcoming folks from all across the earth. They come to this country to pursue the American Dream."

Obama denounced attacks against Muslims in his final SOTU address on Tuesday, saying that targeting people because of race of religion betrays American values.

"When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer," the president said. "That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong."

Peters said the president was reacting to some of the "disturbing rhetoric" from Republican presidential candidates against Muslims.

Donald Trump, the leading GOP candidate, has called for a ban on Muslims' entry to the United States, while neurosurgeon Ben Carson said he would not back a Muslim running for president.

"They're trying to divide people and using language against Muslims that does not represent America," Peters said.

The senator highlighted the "great contributions" of Arab Americans — "whether it's small business or professional or the deeply held family values that the Arab American community exemplifies each and every day."

"Being from Michigan, I feel particularly proud about our very vibrant Arab American community," he said.
Peters invited Hassan Jaber, the executive director of ACCESS, to the State of the Union address. The senator described Jaber as a respected leader in the Arab American and wider Michigan communities.
Refaai Hamo, a Syrian doctor who resettled in Troy as a refugee, also attended the speech. He was invited by the White House.

Peters said calling Jaber to Washington was to push back against the anti-Muslim language used by some politicians and to make a statement that the Arab Americans are a "vitally important" community in the social fabric of America.

Jaber thanked Peters, saying he was honored to be present at the momentous speech.
"I truly appreciate the president for the way he directly tackled the issue of Islamophobia and targeting Muslims and Arabs," Jaber said. "He couldn't have been more direct."

The Middle East

Some Arab American activists criticized President Obama for suggesting that the turmoil in the Middle East is "rooted in conflicts that date back millennia."

Peters, who recently returned from an international trip where he visited top officials in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel, acknowledged that the statement was "simplistic." He said instability in that part of the world is extremely complex.

"It's natural when you're making a speech that you simplify things," Peters said. "But certainly [President Obama] is fully aware of the complexity of the situation in the Middle East and he is developing foreign policy to address it."

The senator, who is a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the top priority of U.S. policy in the Middle East is to fight terrorism. He added that extremist organizations, particularly ISIS, pose a threat to to the United States.

"We've got to stand up and be strong when it comes to national security," he said. "But we also have to understand that those groups represent a small minority of the people in the Middle East. Folks in the Middle East want what everybody wants in the world, which is to be able to live in peace and be able to work and provide the resources to raise their families."

Peters said U.S. policy in the region should empower the people to fulfill their objectives of peace and prosperity.

The Syrian crisis, which has left hundreds of thousands dead and forced millions out of their homes, has been contributing to regional and international instability. Peters said military action is needed against ISIS in Syria, but only a political agreement can bring peace and stability to the war-torn country.

Obama's presidency

Peters, who became a member of the House of Representative in 2008 when Obama was elected president, said he thinks highly of the president's tenure.

The senator, a former lt. commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, was elected to the Senate in 2014.
"One thing I am most pleased about is his steadfast support of the auto industry, which is absolutely critical for us here in Michigan," he said.

He added that the president stood with Michiganders and American workers when U.S. automakers were "hanging by a thread." Peters said the failure of the auto industry would have been catastrophic for the state.

He also commended Obama for his record on diversity and inclusion.

The senator, who has endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stressed the importance of the upcoming presidential elections, slamming GOP candidates for "appealing to people's fears."
He said he supports Clinton for her message and inclusion and focus on economic changes that would empower working and middle class families.

By:  Ali Harb
Source: Arab American News