Though President Barack Obama has visited several mosques during his trips outside the United States (US), the American number-one citizen visited a US mosque for the first time since he assumed power, on Wednesday.
He met Muslim community leaders at a roundtable and delivered remarks to the Islamic Society of Baltimore.
According to the White House, the visit was aimed at countering rhetoric from Republicans on the presidential campaign trail exploiting some Americans’ fears about Muslims.
“We’ve seen an alarming willingness on the part of some Republicans to try to marginalise law-abiding, patriotic Muslim Americans. And it is offensive,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
“It has been a transparent strategy on the part of Republicans to play on people’s anxieties, to target religious minorities to advance their political ambition.”
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States after a California couple who killed 14 people last December were described by authorities as radicalised Muslims inspired by Islamic State militants.
Ben Carson, also a Republican candidate, has said Muslims were unfit for the presidency of the United States.
But the White House believes that Obama’s visit “reiterates the importance of staying true to our core values—welcoming our fellow Americans, speaking out against bigotry, rejecting indifference, and protecting our nation’s tradition of religious freedom”.
The visit comes a week after Obama became the first sitting president to speak at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.