In an effort to share a message of ‘religious tolerance and unity,’ President Obama visited a mosque on Wednesday, the first time he's done so on U.S. soil in his seven years in office.
"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," the president said.
Muslims, he continued, are "some of the most resilient and patriotic Americans you'll ever meet."
He even spoke about how “Islam has always been part of America.”
“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.
“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. […]
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 also recalled the history of mosques in America – pointing out that the oldest surviving mosque was in Iowa and that the first American mosque was built in North Dakota.
Obama went on to encourage Christians to defend Muslims-Americans when their religion was being attacked.
"An attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths," he said, noting that "we have to be consistent in condemning hateful rhetoric ... none of us can be bystanders to bigotry."
Obama also denounced the rise in “extremist elements” who have turned Islamic text into a violent ideology. Coincidentally, he was speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, which has a long history of ties to extremism. In 2010 it was even placed under FBI surveillance.