U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, invited Ald. Samba Baldeh, District 17, to the State of the Union address this evening in a show of solidarity with the Muslim community.

The invitation is a response from Democratic congressmen to Islamophobic rhetoric by some presidential candidates. Baldeh said Madison overall hasn’t been receptive to this rhetoric and has actually been very supportive of its Muslim members.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, one of two Muslim members of Congress, asked colleagues to bring Muslim constituents to the address, David Kolovson, a spokesperson for Pocan, said.

Baldeh said he is grateful for the invitation and the congressional efforts to show support for the Muslim community.

“This shows everyone that what’s being perpetrated by the Republicans is not a true representation of how our leaders feel,” Baldeh said.

Kolovson said Republican rhetoric has caused an uptick in hate crimes and real harm to individuals. He said he hopes the move illustrates that congressional leaders are aware of the Muslim community’s concerns.

Baldeh was chosen specifically because he is an example of how a member of the Muslim community can flourish if given support rather than being disparaged, Kolovson said.

“[Baldeh] came here 16 years ago from Gambia, he volunteers for the AIDS network and Big Brother Big Sister, he’s active in Muslim community, he’s an entrepreneur,” Kolovson said.

Baldeh said he will continue to work to inform the Madison community about Islam when he returns from the address. He said he will also work to stop violent crimes committed in the name of Islam and encourage Muslims to speak up if they believe someone is becoming radicalized.