Wednesday afternoon, President Barack Obama made his first public appearance at an American mosque, the Islamic Society of Baltimore. He gave an address reaffirming Muslim Americans' place in American society, and not-so-subtly rebuking the Donald Trumps of the world who say Islam is a threat to America.
Obama's speech began with a moving introduction from Sabah Muktar, a biology major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "Personally, this visit by our president is an affirmation to all Muslims that we are just as American as any other," Muktar said. "It's an assurance for the Muslim-American kids constantly bombarded by anti-Muslim rhetoric that they belong."
Obama's speech picked up on these themes. "You are not Muslim or American. You are Muslim and American," he told the audience.
"Many only hear about Muslims or Islam from the news after an act of terrorism, or in distorted media portrayals on the television or on film which gives this hugely distorted impression," Obama continued. "Our television shows should have some Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security."
For Obama, this wasn't an abstract issue. The anti-Muslim rhetoric permeating American political discourse, he warned, is directly harming American citizens, and the US itself.
"A girl from Ohio, 13 years old, told me 'I'm scared,'" Obama said. "We're one American family. And when any part of our family starts to feel separate, or second-class, or targeted, it tears at the very fabric of our nation."