Wants Hollywood to start casting more Muslims in roles.
CATONSVILLE, Md. (AP) — President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to correct what he called a “hugely distorted impression” of Muslim-Americans as he made his first visit to a U.S. mosque. He said those who demonize all Muslims for the acts of a few are playing into extremists’ hands.
Inserting himself into a debate that has ricocheted in the presidential campaign, Obama told parishioners at a mosque outside Baltimore that he’d heard from young Muslims worried they’ll be rounded up and kicked out of the country. He said Muslims, too, are concerned about the threat of terrorism but are too often blamed as a group “for the violent acts of the very few.”
“We’ve seen children bullied, we’ve seen mosques vandalized,” Obama said, warning that such unequal treatment for certain groups in society tears at the nation’s fabric. “That’s not who we are.”
For Muslim advocates, Obama’s visit was a long-awaited gesture to a community that has warned of escalating vitriol against them that has accompanied the public’s concern about the Islamic State and other extremist groups. Although Obama has visited mosques overseas, he waited until his final year in office to make such a visit at home, reflecting the issue’s sensitive political implications.
Obama challenged Hollywood to start casting Muslims in roles “that are unrelated to national security.” Drawing a parallel with African-Americans’ struggle for broad societal acceptance, he noted, “there was a time when there were no black people on television.”
With no plans to ever again appear on a ballot, Obama faces less pressure to avoid political controversy, and seemed to relish the possibility that his visit would raise eyebrows among some of his most entrenched critics.
Ahead of his speech at the suburban Islamic Society of Baltimore, Obama met with Muslim university chaplains, community activists and public health professionals to discuss religious tolerance and freedom. Among the participants was fencer Ibtihaj Muhamma. The White House said she’ll make history at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games as the first United States Olympian to compete in a hijab.
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