'Obama's mosque visit to assure Muslims of religious freedom'

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Washington, Feb 3: Amid growing anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US poll campaign, President Barack Obama's visit to a US mosque for the first time during his presidency is aimed at assuring the large Muslim-American community of their religious freedom, according to a top White House official.

"I think the President is quite interested in making sure that we're affirming the important role that Muslims play in our diverse American society, and certainly affirming their right to worship God in a way that's consistent with their heritage," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday.

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Obama is expected to spend several hours at a mosque in Baltimore, near the American capital, during which he would hold talks with eminent American-Muslim leaders and listen to their grievances if any.

"They (Muslims) shouldn't be subject to ridicule or targeting by anybody, let alone somebody who aspires to leading the country," Earnest said on the eve of the first visit of the US President to a mosque in the country.

"It certainly true that we've seen an alarming willingness on the part of some Republicans to try to marginalise law-abiding, patriotic Muslim Americans," Earnest said.

Earnest highlighted that Obama has talked a lot about how important it is for the government to have an effective partnership with leaders in the Muslim community.

"We know that there are extremist organisations like ISIL that are seeking to use social media to radicalise vulnerable members of the population," he said. 

Certainly the leaders in the Muslim community have a strong interest in preventing that from happening, Earnest said.

Talking about the anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from some Republicans, he said, "It is offensive. It's not just offensive to the President. 

I think it's certainly offensive to a lot of Muslim Americans. I think it's just offensive to a lot of Americans who recognise that those kinds of cynical political tactics run directly contrary to the values that we hold dear in this country." "And I think the President is looking forward to the opportunity to make that point," Earnest said in response to a question.

Earnest said the President's remarks at the mosque are going to be focused on national security.

PTI

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