The Islamic leaders represented a broad spectrum of Philadelphia's Muslim community: from African-American followers of U.S.-based orthodox Muslim leader Imam W.D. Mohammed to the foreign-born Arabs and Muslim immigrants.
But yesterday, they had one thing in common: appreciation for President Obama's historic address in Cairo to the Muslim world. In fact, two prominent Philadelphia Muslims independently called Obama's speech "brilliant."
"He did a masterful job of explaining Islam's contributions to civilization, and dispelling a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions," said Imam Malik Mubashshir, who heads Philadelphia Masjid at 47th Street and Wyalusing Avenue in West Philadelphia.
"He also did a fine job of explaining America's ideals and contributions to the world, and framed it in a way that [both sides] can work together for mutual benefit in the 21st century."
Marwan Kreidie, who heads the Philadelphia Arab American Association and speaks for the mostly foreign-born Al Aqsa mosque at 4th and Jefferson streets in North Philadelphia, got up to watch the 6 a.m. speech live. He said Obama had brought up "all the important issues" for those from the Middle East.
"He acknowledged that Iraq was a war of choice, and we have to do right and leave with the Iraqis in charge," said Kreidie. "And that keeping people in prison without trials is not what America is about."
Obama talked about a "two-state solution" with Palestinians and Israelis, and how "all sides must be engaged" in talks.
"And the important thing is that the U.S. will become engaged in the Middle East again, but as a partner, not as a bully," he added.
Suetwedien Muhammad, the imam who heads Masjid Muhammad, at Penn Street and Wingohocking Terrace in East Germantown, said Obama's speech reminded him of the late Imam W.D. Muhammad, who delivered a similar speech with the same themes in the mid-1970s.
"I see [Obama] speaking out to helping heal the whole world," he said. "That was always W.D. Muhammad's teachings."
Noted Islamic researcher Fareed Numan said that Obama "is opening the world to dialogue."
"He's saying, 'This crazy bombing and killing, back and forth. This has got to stop,' " said Numan. "He's leveling the playing field, saying it's time to talk."