Obama's Surprising Two Words to Muslim Americans

President Barack Obama visits the first U.S. mosque of his presidency.
President Obama's first visit to a U.S. mosque during his presidency should surprise no one. Part of why we like Obama is that he's relatable. And relatably, most Americans have never visited a mosque either. 
During his visit, Obama condemned Islamphobia, much like Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley did when they visited mosques after Donald Trump proposed a policy banning Muslim immigration to the United States. But Obama's speech also served to remind America that inside superficially unfamiliar places are often worlds just like theirs. "To the Americans who have never visited a mosque, think of your own church, or synagogue or temple."
Like Jews and Christians, Muslims go to the mosque to engage in both secular and nonsecular activities. A school is part of this mosque, where kids play sports, Obama explained. There are Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts meetings. There's a health clinic that serves communities regardless of their faith. But most importantly, there are interfaith dialogues that build bridges of understanding.  
Muslims represent a small percentage of Americans. And while most Americans only hear about Muslims after an act of terrorism or through distorted media portrayals, Obama hears about their struggles first-hand, he explained, from the many letters he receives from concerned Muslim citizens. At this particular mosque in Catonsville, Maryland, right outside Baltimore, two threats were made just last year.
"The first thing I want to say is two words Muslim Americans don't hear often enough. And that is thank you. Thank you for serving your community, for lifting up the lives of your neighbors, and for helping keep us strong and united as one American family."

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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