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US does not suppress Islam: Obama

Barack Obama

Washington : Terming the recent anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US poll campaign as “inexcusable”, President Barack Obama has said the best way to fight terrorism is to show that the US does not suppress Islam.

“The best way to fight terrorism is to show the US does not suppress Islam and refute lies to the contrary,” Obama said in his historic address to Muslim community from a mosque in Baltimore, Maryland.

In his first visit to a mosque in the US, Obama yesterday referred to the recent political rhetoric against Muslims in the country, where Christians are in majority, and said Americans cannot be silent bystanders to bigotry against any faith.

“An attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths,” Obama said as he mentioned the recent attacks against the Muslim community and also cited assaults on Sikh Americans who look like them.

Americans must speak up when any group is targeted. We have to respect the fact that we have freedom of religion,” Obama said.

“I know that in Muslim communities across our country this is a time of concern and, frankly, a time of some fear. Like all Americans, you’re worried about the threat of terrorism, but on top of that, as Muslim-Americans, you also have another concern, and that is your entire community so often is targeted or blamed for the violent acts of the very few,” the US President said.

Referring to the recent attacks on Muslim Americans, Obama said since 9/11, but more recently since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, they have seen too often people conflating the horrific acts of terrorism with the beliefs of an entire faith.

“And, of course, recently we’ve heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim-Americans that has no place in our country. No surprise, then, that threats and harassment of Muslim-Americans have surged,” he said in a veiled jibe at Republican White House hopeful Donald Trump and others.

During his campaign, Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the Us, triggering sharp reactions.

In another apparent reference to recent political rhetoric, he opposed the idea of religious profiling.

“We can’t give in to profiling entire groups of people because there is no single profile of a terrorist. Engagement with Muslim Americans communities must never be a cover for surveillance,” Obama said.

“As we go forward, I want every Muslim American to remember that…your fellow Americans stand with you,” Obama said and assured the young Muslim Americans, that, “you are not Muslim or American. You are Muslim and American.”

Obama also urged the Muslim community to reject extremism and terrorism. Pushing back at critics who say he should talk about “Islamic terrorists”.

Meanwhile, two top Republican presidential aspirants – Donald Trump and Marco Rubio – slammed Obama for his visit to the mosque.

“We have a lot of problems in this country. There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque,” Trump told Fox News.

At a New Hampshire townhall, Rubio – who had an impressive performance during the Iowa Caucus this week – said the mosque visit was yet another example of Obama dividing the country.

“I’m tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president has done. Always pitting people against each other,” Rubio alleged.

“He gave a speech at a mosque… basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam,” Rubio said.

However, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders praised Obama’s mosque visit.

“I think it’s very important. If this country is about anything, it is about religious freedom, religious tolerance,” he told CNN.

“And let me be very clear. What Donald Trump and some of these other people are doing are trying to condemn the Muslim religion, trying to say that we should not have Muslims coming into this country, is totally unacceptable, attacking Mexicans; that is not what America is about,” Sanders said.

“America is about standing together as one people, not allowing ourselves to be divided up by religion or by nationality,” he said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) welcomed Obama at Islamic Society of Baltimore, where the US president rejected “inexcusable political rhetoric” targeting Muslims.

“We welcome President Obama’s historic visit and applaud his remarks both rejecting anti-Muslim rhetoric and reminding our fellow American’s about Islam’s long-history in our nation and about constitutional protections guaranteeing religious freedom,” said CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad in a statement.

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) thanked Obama for his commitment to combat religious bigotry.

“Obama’s address was inspiring, but also a reminder that we must continue to engage and serve our community as way to combat Islamophobia and strengthen the fabric of our nation,” said ISNA president Azhar Azeez.

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