US President Barack Obama has called on Americans to fight Islamophobia in his first presidential visit to a 47-year-old US mosque on 3 February. The president met with several Muslim leaders during his visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque.
"An attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths...we have to be consistent in condemning hateful rhetoric...none of us can be bystanders to bigotry," said Obama. "You're not Muslim or American – you're Muslim and American. Don't grow cynical. Don't respond to ignorance by a world view saying you must choose between your faith and your patriotism. Don't believe you must choose between your best impulses."
President Obama acknowledged the efforts made by the Islamic Society in fighting the widespread "distorted impression" of Muslims and Islam spread by militant groups, like the Islamic State (Isis). The Islamic Society of Baltimore in Catonsville reportedly received terrorist threats twice in 2015, said Obama.
"We're one American family, and when any part of our family starts to feel second class or separate or targeted, it tears at the very fabric of our nation," said Obama before adding that Muslims are, "some of the most resilient and patriotic Americans you'll ever meet," reported NBC News.
Following the terror attacks on Paris in November 2015, some 38 anti-Muslim attacks reportedly took place within the US, which is home to nearly 2.75 million Muslims. "The President's trip is extremely timely. It couldn't have come at a better time," said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates.
"Coming to a mosque is a public reminder that Muslims have been part of America since our nation's founding. My hope is that he may view this as an occasion to send the message that mosques are not breeding grounds for terrorism. This is not where Isis is recruiting. Law enforcement sources tell us Isis is recruiting online, not in our mosques."
Obama has previously visited mosques outside the country, however this was his first official visit inside the US. A study conducted by professor Brian Levin of the California State University in San Bernardino revealed that religious hate crimes against Muslims had nearly tripled in 2015, according to an NBC News report.
Referring to the harsh campaign agenda used by several Republicans to call for patriotism and marginalising American Muslims to a great extent, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on 2 February: "It's just offensive to a lot of Americans who recognise that those kinds of cynical political tactics run directly contrary to the values that we hold dear in this country.
"And I think the president is looking forward to the opportunity to make that point." Without directly referring to Grand Old Party (GOP) candidate Donald Trump, Obama had previously touched on the call for tolerance. "Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbours; our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform," Obama said at a State of the Union address in January 2016.