Barack Obama visited an American mosque for the first time during his presidency on Wednesday to denounce "inexcusable political rhetoric" and reassure young Muslims that they have a place in the nation's future.

The president was greeted by hundreds of cheering children as he arrived to meet with community leaders and give a speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in Windsor Mill, Maryland.

The mosque, which is also home to a nursery and school, has been subject to two racially motivated attacks in the past year, as Islamophobia has taken hold among Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates as a reaction to the threat of Isis.

So often, Muslim-Americans are targeted and blamed for the acts of a few.

An attack on one faith, is an attack on all faiths. When any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up.

We've heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim-Americans that has no place in our country.


Obama praised Muslim-American entrepreneurs, sporting heroes and service people, and 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," he said, referring to accusations that have plagued his presidency that he's secretly Muslim. "I'm in good company," he said, to laughter from the audience.

The president also touched on pop-culture depictions of Muslims as terrorists, and fear-mongering over groups like Isis, to tell the children present they could grow up to be anything they want to be.

Our television shows should have some Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security.

Islam and Muslims are not defined by extremists like Isis, he added. who you are. To use a little Christian expression - let your light shine.

You fit in here. Right here. You're not Muslim or American. You're Muslim and American.

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