Barack Obama spoke at a mosque today for the first time as President – and called for unity against all hate crimes.
The President of the United States had not officially spoken at a Muslim place of worship in his seven years in office – but did so today, less than a year before he is set to leave.
The Democratic leader visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore today, in a historic moment for his Presidency.
Rather than simply condemning the “Islamophobia” fostered by Republican Donald Trump, the President spoke about the need for unity against bigotry.
As well as condemning ISIS, he also challenged anti-Semitism fostered by some Muslim groups.
In a not-so-coded response to Mr Trump’s calls to ban all Muslims from the US, the President said: “When any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up.
“We have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice and bias and targets people because of religion.”
He added: “We’ve got to make sure that hate crimes are punished, and that the civil rights of all Americans are upheld.
“Faith leaders including Muslims must speak out when Christians are persecuted around the world, or when anti-Semitism is on the rise – because the fact is there are now Christians who are targeted in the Middle East, despite having been there for centuries.
“There are Jews who’ve lived in places like France for centuries who now feel obliged to leave, because they feel themselves under assault. Sometimes by Muslims.
“We have to be consistent in condemning hateful rhetoric and violence against everyone – and that includes Muslims here in the USA. None of us can be silent. We can’t be bystanders to bigotry.”
On terrorism, Obama added that he “refuses to give [ISIS] legitimacy” by conflating their beliefs with everyday Muslims, when the “vast majority of the people they kill are innocent Muslim men, women and children”.
Though some have interpreted his comments as including LGBT rights, Obama did not specifically mention the subject in his speech.
The speech comes despite criticisms from right-wing media outlets – who attempted to smear the visit because Imam Yaseen Shaikh, a scholar at the mosque, believes the Quran bans Muslims having gay sex.
Strangely, the same outlets do not seem to be concerned enough to report the links between Republican Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz and extremist Christian pastors who call for gays to be put to death.
Cruz has repeatedly ignored calls to condemn his associate Kevin Swanson, who he spoke alongside at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa last year.
At the event Cruz attended, Kevin Swanson shouted: “Yes, Leviticus calls for the death penalty for homosexuals!
“Yes, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death! His words, not mine, and [screaming] I AM NOT ASHAMED! I am not ashamed of the truth of the word of God!”
Cruz has also not spoken out against comments from his biggest donors, Christian pastors who claim that gays lead a “predatorial lifestyle” and “need your children… to fulfill their sexual habits”.