The seven million strong American Muslim community has welcomed the visit of President Barrack Obama to Maryland mosque where the President called on Americans to embrace their common humanity and reject the inexcusable political rhetoric emanating from the presidential campaign trail.
The President said: "In this era of heightened rhetoric during the Presidential election season, along with the rise of anti-Islamic propaganda, it is important for our elected officials to stand with the Muslim community to show solidarity with the more than 6 million Muslim Americans. Our nation was founded on religious tolerance and common ethos which requires us to stand together as Americans."
Most Americans do agree that there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims. A Pew Research Center survey released the same day as Obama's speech finds that 59 percent of Americans say there is "a lot" of discrimination against Muslims today. In other words, Obama was right on point.
According to Baltimore Sun, though Obama touched on the presidential election only tangentially, White House aides say he decided to speak at the mosque largely to counter statements and policies floated by Republican candidates in recent months. Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, in particular, has stirred controversy by proposing to bar Muslims from entering the country.
"Recently, we've heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country," Obama said. "We have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion."
White House officials were quoted by CNN as saying that Obama was looking to issue a forceful counterpoint to the language favored by some Republican presidential candidates like Donald Trump, who has proposed banning all Muslims from entering the country until tighter anti-terror measures are put into place. But they also hoped to counter GOP claims that Obama hasn't been forceful enough in demanding that Muslim leaders help root out extremism.
Republican presidential candidates, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump criticized President Obama's call for religious tolerance. The Christian Science Monitor reported that the GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump was among the first to criticize Obama for his visit to Mosque. When asked on Fox News Channel about the president's visit, he said, "Maybe he feels comfortable there." "We have a lot of problems in this country," Trump continued. "There are a lot of places he can go and he chose a mosque."
On his campaign trail in New Hampshire, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio accused the president of "pitting people against each other" by making an appeal to Muslim Americans. "Look at today. He gave a speech at a mosque, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims," Rubio said: "Of course there's discrimination in America, of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam.
President Obama spoke warmly about Islam during his speech at the mosque, highlighting the contributions that Muslims had made to the fabric of American society. "Islam has always been part of America," he said, detailing the beginnings of the religion among African slaves brought to America. He also pointed out that Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Virginia statute for religious freedom that the "Mohammedan" should have his faith protected in the United States.
During his speech, the President praised the religion for being a religion of peace -- not the hate preached by groups like ISIS."The very word Islam comes from 'Salam' -- peace," he said. "The standard greeting is 'As-Salaam-Alaikum' -- 'Peace be upon you,'" he explained. "Like so many faiths, Islam is rooted in a commitment to compassion and mercy and justice and charity. "Whoever wants to enter paradise, the prophet Mohammad taught, let him treat people the way he would love to be treated," he said as the audience applauded. "For Christians like myself, I'm assuming that sounds familiar," he continued.
During his speech, Obama praised Islam for being a religion of peace -- not the hate preached by groups like ISIS."The very word Islam comes from 'Salam' -- peace," he said. "The standard greeting is 'As-Salaam-Alaikum' -- 'Peace be upon you,'" he explained. "Like so many faiths, Islam is rooted in a commitment to compassion and mercy and justice and charity. "Whoever wants to enter paradise, the prophet Mohammad taught, let him treat people the way he would love to be treated," he said. "For Christians like myself, I'm assuming that sounds familiar," he continued.
Obama reminded the audience that political opponents of Thomas Jefferson accused him of being a Muslim. "So I was not the first," he said lightly as the audience laughed. "It's true. Look it up. I'm in good company." Obama pointed out that the founding fathers also supported the religion of Islam. "Jefferson and John Adams had their own copies of the Koran," he said. "Benjamin Franklin wrote, that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach to us, he would find a pulpit at his service."
He demanded that Americans stop profiling Muslims and treating them differently because of their faith -- criticizing political rhetoric for inflaming hatred against the Muslim community. "We have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias and targets people because of religion," he said.
American Muslim groups have welcomed President Obama's visit to Baltimore Mosque.