WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama forcefully defended Huma Abedin, top aside to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, praising her as “an American patriot” in the face of charges from Republicans like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann that she is secretly tied to Muslim extremists.
Speaking at a White House Iftar dinner to mark the the holy month of Ramadan, Obama hailed Abedin as “a good friend” who has “worked tirelessly in the White House, in the US Senate, and most exhaustingly at the State Department - where she has been nothing less than extraordinary in representing our country and the democratic values that we hold dear.”
“(Mrs.) Clinton has relied on her expertise, and so have I,” Obama said. “The American people owe her a debt of gratitude, because Huma is an American patriot, and an example of what we need in this country: more public servants with her sense of decency, her grace, and her generosity of spirit.
“So, on behalf of all Americans, we thank you so much.”
Ms. Abedin, who is married to the former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, is a Michigan-born Muslim-American raised in Saudi Arabia by a Pakistani mother and an Indian father.
Obama’s comments came nearly one month after senior Republican Senator John McCain took to the Senate floor to defend Abedin, setting himself apart from his partymen.
Obama highlighted several Muslim American women who, he said, enrich America. The president’s recognition of Abedin comes as she faces accusations that she is helping the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrate the US government. Five conservative lawmakers, led by Congresswoman Bachmann recently wrote to federal agencies asking for an investigation.
The accusations stem from a report by the Center for Security Policy. The organization is run by Frank Gaffney, who has been crusading against the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and Sharia law for years.
Obama also paid tribute to the six victims of the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. last week. They were murdered by a gunman who had white supremacist sympathies.
“We’ve seen instances of mosques and synagogues, churches and temples being targeted,” Obama said. “Tonight, our prayers, in particular, are with our friends and fellow Americans in the Sikh community. We mourn those who were senselessly murdered and injured in their place of worship. And while we may never fully understand what motivates such hatred, such violence, the perpetrators of such despicable acts must know that your twisted thinking is no match for the compassion and the goodness and the strength of our united American family.”
Obama continued, “So tonight, we declare with one voice that such violence has no place in the United States of America. The attack on Americans of any faith is an attack on the freedom of all Americans. No American should ever have to fear for their safety in their place of worship. And every American has the right to practice their faith both openly and freely, and as they choose.”