Obama Visits Mosque, Denounces Anti-Muslim Bias

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President Barack Obama meets with members of Muslim-American community at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Baltimore, Md. Obama is making his first visit to a U.S. mosque at a time Muslim-Americans say they're confronting increasing levels of bias in speech and deeds.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In his first visit to a U.S. mosque, President Obama thanked American Muslims for their contributions to the U.S., promised they will be treated with sensitivity in counterterrorism probes and said Islam is not to blame for terrorist attacks.

“I want to say two words Muslim-Americans don’t hear often enough: thank you,” Mr. Obama said at the Islamic Society of Baltimore. “We are one American family.”

Mr. Obama also ridiculed critics who say he can’t effectively fight extremist violence because he refuses even to utter the phrase “Islamist terrorism.”

“I often hear it said that we need more clarity in this fight, and the suggestion is somehow that if I would simply say these are all Islamic terrorists, then we would actually have solved the problem by now, apparently,” the president said. “I agree we actually do need moral clarity. Groups like [the Islamic State] are desperate for legitimacy. I refuse to give them legitimacy. They’re not defending Islam. And we can’t suggest that Islam itself is at the root of the problem. That betrays our values.”

A new poll Wednesday found that Americans are divided along partisan lines about whether the next president should criticize Islam when speaking about terrorists.

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