Mosque tour: Syaikh Ismail (right) showing Obama around the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur. — Bernama
KUALA LUMPUR: As a 22-year-old tahfiz (religious school) student, Tan Sri Syaikh Ismail Muhammad met US president Lyndon B. Johnson at the National Mosque in 1966.
Yesterday, he met another US president – Barack Obama – this time as the grand imam of the mosque.
Obama started his day with a visit to the mosque, symbolising his approach in reaching out to the Muslim world.
In keeping with the customs, he took off his shoes before stepping into the premises and was welcomed by Syaikh Ismail and committee members.
The president walked alongside Syaikh Ismail and took in the breathtaking 73m high minaret and a 16-point star concrete main roof, the key features of the mosque, before stopping at its main prayer hall.
He stopped to pay respects at the Warrior’s Mausoleum.
On his 25-minute tour with the American leader, Syaikh Ismail said Obama asked him to “pray for me” and his struggles to end any act of oppression against Muslims around the world.
“He also told me that he would do his best to put an end to oppression against Muslims and to stop any kind of humanitarian crisis,” Syaikh Ismail said.
On his first meeting with a US president, he said: “I was 22 years old when I met President Johnson. I was a tahfiz student (a Quranic recitation course). I did not expect to meet another US President in my lifetime after almost 50 years!”
Syaikh Ismail was impressed with Obama’s ability to understand some Bahasa Malaysia, pointing out that there were times he spoke in that language to the president and received a nod.
He said Obama often replied Insya Allah and Terima Kasih.