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Obama Makes First Visit to US Mosque

President Barack Obama visited a Muslim religious center in the United States for the first time as president on Wednesday.

“We’re one American family,” Obama said during his meeting with Muslim-Americans at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in the eastern state of Maryland.

He said too often Americans link the Muslim religion Islam with terrorism and blame the entire Muslim community for the “violent acts of a few.”

Obama spoke about the contributions Muslims have made to American society. He said “Muslim-Americans keep us safe. They are our police. They are our firefighters. They’re in (the Department of) Homeland Security.”

And he said “inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslims has no place” in this country.

Obama has visited mosques in other countries, but never in the United States.

His visit took place during an election campaign in which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a temporary ban on new Muslim immigrants.

Many Republicans -- including U.S. Sen. John McCain and presidential candidate Jeb Bush -- condemned Trump’s plan. But Ben Carson, another Republican presidential candidate, said a Muslim should not be permitted to serve as president.

Obama has not directly answered the comments about Muslims from the Republican candidates. But he has criticized anti-Muslim statements.

In his final State of the Union address last month, Obama asked Americans to reject any politics that target people because of race or religion.

“When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer.”

Muslim-American groups have been asking Obama to visit a mosque in the United States for some time. They asked again after threats and attacks on Muslims last December.

The Islamic Society of Baltimore has received such threats. Police have increased security at the building, which includes a place for religious study, a health clinic and a school. It was started 47 years ago and has thousands of members.

President Obama has said it is important for the federal government to work with Muslim-American leaders to help fight attempts by extremists like the Islamic State terrorist group to radicalize Muslims in the U.S.

I’m Dorothy Gundy.

Aru Pande and Mary Alice Salinas reported this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

rhetoric - n. language that is intended to influence people

vandalize - v. destroy or damage

radical - adj. having extreme political or social views

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