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Discussing religion, spirituality and values. Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. You can email her at
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Children of Abraham

Look for coverage of President Barack Obama’s speech in Egypt tomorrow. American Muslims have reacted favorably, and so have some here in Fredericksburg. Hilal Shah told me he was especially impressed with Obama’s reference to Isra. Isra refers to the time when Mohammed ascended to heaven and prayed with Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

Obama mentioned the story while talking about hopes for peace in the Middle East.

That won’t be an easy task, area Muslims said. First, the Arabic countries are not so willing to participate. Some don’t follow Islam, said Nancy Shehata, a Spotsylvania resident and member of the Fredericksburg Islamic Center.

In fact, she said, in some ways Obama’s speech followed the faith more closely than some Arabic dictators. She especially liked when he talked about women’s rights as being deeper than a piece of cloth on the head.

Shehata, who wears a hijab, said when it comes to Islam and women’s rights, many focus on the traditional headcoverings but forget the faith actually affords women many rights. Most importantly, she said, it gives them the right to choose. Women can own property and earn an income, but they don’t have to, in Islam.

Hilal Shah, also a Spotsylvania resident and member of the mosque, said, "I really appreciate him for extending his speech to the Muslims and for talking to the Muslim world. But he needs to back this up and to achieve what he has promised."

Both Shah and Shehata hope his speech will lead Americans back home to want to know more about Islam.

"If it sends one person to a Web site on what Islam really teaches, it will help. It’s a helpful thing, both home and abroad," she said.

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And look for a few more insights from local reactions tomorrow.