Washington: US President Barack Obama spoke warmly about Islam during his speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque in Catonsville on Wednesday declaring that attacks on Islam were an attack on all faiths, highlighting at the same time the contributions that Muslims had made to the fabric of American society, according to media reports.
"I know that in Muslim communities across our country, this is a time of concern and, frankly, a time of some fear," he said citing it as one reason for his visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a 47-year-old mosque in Maryland outside Washington.
"We have to understand that an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths," Obama said. "When any religious group is targeted we all have a responsibility to speak up."
“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.
Obama pointed out that the founding fathers also supported the religion of Islam.
“Jefferson and John Adams had their own copies of the Qur’an,” 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 also urged Christians to defend Muslim-Americans when their religion was under attack.
During his speech, he 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.
“If we’re serious about freedom of religion and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians, who remain the majority in this country we have to understand, an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths,” he said.
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.
Obama urged people watching who had never been to a mosque to think of it as similar to their own houses of worship.
"Think of your own church or synagogue or temple, and mosques like this will be very familiar. This is where families come to worship and express their love for God and for each other," he said.
Obama was introduced by a young woman named Sabah: “This visit by our president is an affirmation to all Muslims: we are just as American as any other,” she said.