CAIRO – Meeting the second US President in 48 years, National Mosque imam Sheikh Ismail Muhammad has pleaded to the President Barack Obama to end oppression against Muslims worldwide, a request to which Obama replied, “pray for me”.
"We exchanged views and I had asked Obama, as the leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world, to end oppression, especially against Muslims around the world,” imam Muhammad told New Straits Times on Monday, April 28.
"He (Obama) replied 'pray for me' and asked for my prayers to be with him in his quest to halt tyranny in any form.
“He also told me that every day when he wakes up, he always does his best to put an end to any act of oppression against Muslims and to stop any kind of humanitarian crises around the globe."
For Ismail, 70, his meeting with Obama is not the first with a sitting US President.
His first meeting was with President Lyndon B.Johnson’s in 1966, about 48 years ago when he was 22 years old and a tahfiz student (studying the Quran).
"I was a 22-year-old tahfiz student when President Johnson visited Masjid Negara. I never thought that I would meet another US president almost 50 years later.
"I still remember how excited my friends and I were when we met Johnson. I still feel the same way now," he said with a wide grin.
In the 30-minute visit, Obama, who wore a dark suit and took off his shoes, toured the prayer hall and the Warriors Mausoleum.
Ismail was also impressed with Obama’s ability to understand the Malay language, in which he sometimes communicated with the US President.
Despite Obama’s limited vocabulary, the US President frequently replied with “Insya Allah” (God willing) and “terima kasih” (thank you), he said.
“It was nice of him, although he could not speak much of the Malay language but understood what I had said to him,” smiled Ismail.
The mosque visit comes in the second day of a three-day visit to Malaysia, the first by a sitting American president in 50 years.
Obama started his first full day in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday at the marble-colonnaded National Mosque before heading into talks on security, intelligence-sharing, tense regional issues and trade with Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Obama's visit to a mosque is not new as he had visited the famed Blue Mosque while on a visit to Turkey in 2009.
In 2010 trip to Indonesia, Obama also visited Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, which is one of the world's largest mosques.
During his historic visit to Cairo in July 2009, Obama visited Sultan Hassan Mosque - a centuries-old mosque in the south of Cairo where the four schools of Islamic thought used to be taught.
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