Obama Decries ‘Inexcusable Political Rhetoric’ Against Muslims During Mosque Visit

PHOTO: President Barack Obama meets with members of Muslim-American community at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Feb. 3, 2016, in Baltimore, Md.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
President Barack Obama meets with members of Muslim-American community at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Feb. 3, 2016, in Baltimore, Md.

President Obama made his first visit to a U.S. mosque today since being elected president, and he tried to reassure American Muslims that religious discrimination and harassment would not be tolerated.

While avoiding Donald Trump by name, Obama did refer to the controversial proposal by Trump to ban Muslims from entering the country. Obama said this kind of rhetoric created an unsafe environment for some American Muslims.

“We’ve seen too often people conflating the horrific acts of terrorism with the beliefs of an entire faith,” Obama said. “And of course recently we’ve heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country. It’s no surprise then that threats and harassment of Muslim Americans have surged.

“Some of them are parents that talked about how their children were asking ‘Are we going to be forced out of the country? Are we going to be rounded up?' Conversations that you shouldn’t have to have with children," he added. "Not in this country. Not in this moment.”

Obama made the remarks after visiting with a roundtable of Muslim community members at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, which Obama said received two threats last year.

Obama was introduced by Sabah Muktar, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County student who thanked him for using his visit to assure Muslim Americans that they should not feel threatened.

“In these uncertain times, some of us might find ourselves doubting where we fit in this society,” Muktar said. “Personally, this visit by our president is an affirmation to all Muslims that we are just as American as any other.”

Obama told those in attendance that labeling ISIS a “radical Islamic terrorist group" would play into terrorist propaganda.

“I agree we actually do need moral clarity. Let’s have some moral clarity. Groups like ISIL are desperate for legitimacy,” the president said. “I refuse to give them legitimacy. We must never give them that legitimacy.”

Obama also urged Muslims to be vigilant in their communities and to shun terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS.

“It is undeniable that a small fraction of Muslims propagate a perverted interpretation of Islam. This is the truth,” Obama said. “Right now there is an organized extremist element that draws selectively from Islamic texts.”

Obama acknowledged the “battle of hearts and minds” taking place in parts of the Muslim community.

“I would urge all of you not to see this as a burden but as a great opportunity and a great privilege to show who you are,” he said.

Both Muslim members of Congress -- Reps. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, and Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota -- were on hand for the Baltimore mosque visit, and praised President Obama's speech.

Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, said he wished President Obama visited a U.S. mosque earlier in his presidency, particularly around the 2012 presidential campaign.

Carson said Obama has "been engaged with the [Muslim-American] community since he got into office."

ABC News' Ben Siegel contributed.