Barack Obama visits US mosque to send pointed message to non-Muslims

Obama, declaring that attacks on Islam were an attack on all religions, decried the "inexcusable political rhetoric" against Muslims from Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates.

By: Reuters | Catonsville | Updated: February 4, 2016 10:29 am
Barack Obama, Muslims terrorists, Muslims, terrorists, Muslim American, American Muslims, US mosque, obama US mosque, mosque, obama mosque visit, mosque visit, US news, world news U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque in Catonsville, Maryland February 3, 2016. REUTERS

President Barack Obama made his first visit to a US mosque on Wednesday, in an effort to allay the fears of Americans accustomed to pop-culture portrayals of Muslims as terrorists, and to reassure Muslim American youth about their place in the nation.

Obama, declaring that attacks on Islam were an attack on all religions, decried the “inexcusable political rhetoric” against Muslims from Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates.

“We have to understand that an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths,” he said at the mosque outside of Baltimore, which he said had received threats twice in the past year. “When any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up.”

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Trump, the Republican front-runner, called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States after authorities described a California couple who killed 14 people last December as radicalized Muslims inspired by Islamic State militants. Obama’s visit was aimed at showing Americans another side of Islam.

Before he spoke, Cub Scouts who attend a school run by the mosque carried the American and Maryland state flags into the prayer hall, a plain room save for a three rows of window panes, 99 in all, each depicting one of the names of Allah in Arabic.

“Think of your own church or synagogue or temple, and a mosque like this will be very familiar,” said Obama, who, following Islamic custom, took off his shoes to enter the hall.

The children led the audience, with some men in prayer caps and most women in head scarves, in the Pledge of Allegiance. A man and a woman recited a verse from the Koran about tolerance and inclusion.

Obama, a Christian, outlined the tenets of Islam, and gave a brief history of Muslims in America. He noted that founding father Thomas Jefferson specifically mentioned Muslims when he spoke about the American right to freedom of religion.

“Thomas Jefferson’s opponents tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim, so I was not the first,” said Obama, who has long been accused of secretly being a Muslim, to a roar of laugher. “I’m in good company,” he said.

Obama asked a row of Muslim American military service members to stand, as well as Ibtihaj Muhammad, a member of the US fencing team who will be the first American Olympian to compete in a hijab, or head scarf, in this year’s Rio Olympics.

The president touched on pop-culture depictions of Muslims as terrorists. “Our television shows should have some Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security, Obama said. Turning to extremist groups such as Islamic State and what he characterized as perverted versions of Islam portrayed by them, Obama urged regular Muslims to “show who you are. To use a little Christian expression – let your light shine.”

Later, he told a crowd of cheering children, who had packed the mosque’s gymnasium to watch his speech on large screens, that one day they too could become president. Obama urged young Muslims not to embrace a worldview that required them to choose between faith and patriotism. “You fit in here. Right here,” he said. “You’re not Muslim or American. You’re Muslim and American.”

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  1. A
    Feb 4, 2016 at 4:36 am
    wow what a great words by Mr. obama. Hats off to him.
    1. F
      Feb 4, 2016 at 10:31 am
      Why has Obama said the same things in a Christian house of worship? How can an attack on Islam be an attack on all faiths when Islam is the one attacking all faiths? This is high level hypocrisy. The President is seeking excuses for a very large number of people who are pive backers of terrorism.
      1. J
        Feb 4, 2016 at 3:34 pm
        Perhaps the President has forgotten that it was the Federal government that handed visas to the terrorist that flew into the Twin Towers. To lecture on American values is disgusting. We have our values and the government has forgotten what they have done to us and this country. They are too busy taking care of other countries and are destroying America. The President made a point of a Muslim college student saying she was afraid. How many mothers in America cities say the same thing when their children go outside to play? How many Americans fear the gun violence within our country and yet nothing is said except that the Muslim was scared. Disgusting to say that Americans need to be reminded of their values. We do not have secret service protecting us and our families but the government does. Just they do not fear the dangers we have to face daily. Shame on you, Mr. President.
        1. M
          Me Marathi
          Feb 4, 2016 at 3:19 am
          Obama had done wonderful job of eliminating osama and attacks on syria. Hope he eliminates atleast a million more islamic jihadi sc*ms from the face of planet before he steps down gracefully.