The Two Words Pres. Obama Thinks Muslims Don't Hear Enough

President Barack Obama made a historic visit to a Maryland mosque at the Islamic Center of Baltimore on Wednesday, the first time in his presidency. He spoke about issues of discrimination that the Muslim American population has faced since the U.S. was attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001 and said that there were two words that the community doesn't hear often enough: "Thank you."

"Thank you for serving your community," Obama said. "Thank you for lifting up the lives of your neighbors and for helping to keep us strong and united as one American family. We are grateful for that."

Muslim community leaders have repeatedly encouraged the president to visit a mosque and speak out against the stigmatization of Muslims in the country. They say that extremist violence in the the U.S. has led people to stereotype Muslims — to assign moderates to the same category as Islamic extremists in a way that has continually distorted perceptions about the community.

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"We have to understand that an attack on one faith is an attack on all of our faiths," Obama said. "We have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate, prejudice, or bias and targets people because of religion. We've got to make sure that hate crimes are punished and that the civil rights all of Americans are upheld."

A new poll from the Pew Research Center found that 68 percent of Americans believe that religious violence is committed by "violent people using religion to justify their actions" compared to 22 percent of Americans who think certain religious teachings promote such violence. Of that 22 percent, the majority — 14 percent — blame the teachings of Islam for religious violence.

Pres. Obama set out to correct that narrative and emphasized that Islamic extremists do not represent the Muslim population as a whole. It is something that he has said before, condemning anti-Muslim rhetoric and defending the rights of Muslim Americans to live and practice their religion without fear of prejudice or persecution in the U.S.

Watch President Obama's full speech at the Islamic Center of Baltimore here.