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Obama Thanks American Muslims In Mosque Visit

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President Barack Obama has thanked Muslim Americans during his first visit to a US mosque since he took office.

Mr Obama, who has visited mosques overseas before, met Muslim community leaders at the Islamic Society of Baltimore before addressing worshippers in a 45-minute speech.

He condemned "inexcusable political rhetoric that has no place in our country" directed at Muslim Americans.

Mr Obama talked about a 13-year-old Muslim girl from Ohio who wrote him to say she is scared.

He said the US can confront extremism if it works with Muslims instead of branding all of them as potential enemies.

His remarks came a supporter of the so-called Islamic State admitted plotting to explode a car bomb at Fort Riley in Manhattan, Kansas.

Mr Obama encouraged young people not to fall for extremists' siren call to jihad.

"You're not Muslim or American; you're Muslim and American," he said.

"Don't grow cynical and respond to ignorance by embracing a world view that suggests you must choose between your faith and your patriotism."

The event drew a small group of protesters, reports the Baltimore Sun.

A group of Muslim women had vowed to demonstrate because they said the mosque treats females like second-class citizens.

During his visit, Mr Obama met Ibtihaj Muhammad, a fencer who has qualified for a spot on the US team for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

He encouraged the female athlete, who the White House says will make history as the first US Olympian to compete in a hijab, to bring home a gold medal.

Republican White House candidates have been accused of Islamophobic remarks since a couple described by US authorities as radicalised Muslims shot dead 14 people in California last December .

Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the US, while Ben Carson has said Muslims were unfit for the US presidency.

Mr Obama has said discrimination against Muslims "plays into the hands" of extremist groups like Islamic State.

Muslim civil rights leaders have expressed alarm about recent incidents where vandals have thrown bacon and even a severed pig's head at mosques .

Mr Obama, an avowed Christian, has long been the subject of discredited conspiracy theories surrounding his religious beliefs.

Only last year an opinion poll found 29% of Americans and 43% of Republicans believe he is a Muslim.

The US President is set to speak to the nation's Christian leaders at the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.

Last week, he became the first sitting president to speak at the Israeli Embassy, when he warned of global anti-Semitism.

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