U.S. Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise appearance Wednesday at an interfaith gathering for "Solidarity, Understanding and Peace" in Washington, as efforts build to counter anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States in the wake of terrorist attacks.
The service, held at Georgetown University, was attended by representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths.
Pointing to the various religious leaders on stage, Biden said, "This is America. This is America."
Biden criticized American political figures who have been calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States or for registering Muslims in a database. That is precisely what the Islamic State wants to create, he argued: a clash of civilizations that will drive more Muslims to join the IS's self-declared caliphate.
"What amazes me about our political leadership across the board is they don't understand that,” he told the crowd of several hundred. “What they are fomenting is what the people they are condemning most want to happen."
Speaker Laila Brothers, a Muslim Georgetown University student, told the story of the fear her mother sometimes feels when wearing a hijab in public.
"I asked my mother if she would ever consider removing her hijab,” Brothers said. “Her response? 'No. If people are so concerned about the Muslims in America they are talking about making us wear badges. Well, I guess I have my badge. My hijab is my badge.'"
Addressing concerns in the wake of attacks by Islamist extremists in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, said that "Acts of terror happen because there are those who are willing to do them. And then there are those who are willing to be silent. Today, we are addressing the silence by standing together and saying, 'This is simply not us.' We must always stand together."
Also in attendance were representatives of other faiths, including Buddhists, Hindus and Bahai'is.