Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he would also visit a mosque, just like President Barack Obama did last week when he spoke at an Islamic center for the first time in his nearly eight years as commander in chief of the United States.
“Would you visit a mosque as president,” ABC’s David Muir asked the Republican presidential candidate during the Saturday night debate in New Hampshire. “I would,” Rubio responded. “But that’s not the issue. My problem is with what he did as he continues to put out this fiction that there’s widespread, systematic discrimination against Muslim Americans.”
Muir prefaced his question by recalling Rubio’s comments this past Wednesday after Obama spoke at the Islamic Society of Baltimore about how the president is always “pitting people against each other.” At the time, Rubio had said:
He [Obama] gave a speech at a mosque, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s discrimination in America, of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam. This constant pitting people against each other, I can’t stand that. It’s hurting our country badly.
Rubio backed his statement about the commander in chief during Saturday night’s debate, noting that Muslim Americans have also died fighting for this country and that his comments above were in reference to Obama’s playing up of hate crimes and discrimination against Muslims. In his response to Muir, Rubio also emphasized the need to form better relationships with Muslims to have them working to help law enforcement officials track down radicals within the faith.
First of all, let’s recognize this. If you go to a national cemetery in this country, you will see stars of Davids and crosses, but you see crescent moons. There are brave men and women who happen to be Muslim Americans who are serving this country in uniform and who have died in the service of this country. And we recognize that and we honor that. But by the same token, we face a very significant threat of home grown violent extremism.
We need to have strong, positive relationships in the Islamic communities in this country so they will identify and report this activity, especially mosques, for example, that are participating not just in hate speech, but inciting violence and taking acts against us.
And I do believe it is important also to recognize, you want to talk about religious discrimination in America. Well, I don’t think Barack Obama is being sued by any Islamic groups, but he is being sued by the Little Sisters of the Poor. We are facing in this country Christian groups and groups that hold traditional values who feel and in fact are being discriminated against by the laws of this country that try to force them to vie to violate their conscience.
Among statements he gave during his February 3 speech in Baltimore, President Obama said “Islam has always been part of America” telling the audience that the religion, historically, had existed among African slaves who were brought to America. “Muslim Americans keep us safe. They’re our police and our firefighters. They’re in homeland security, in our intelligence community,” Obama said.
He then praised Islam as being a peaceful religion and suggested it was not an aggressive message preached by groups like the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh):
For more than a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace. And the very word itself, Islam, comes from salam — peace. The standard greeting is as-salamu alaykum — peace be upon you. And like so many faiths, Islam is rooted in a commitment to compassion and mercy and justice and charity. Whoever wants to enter paradise, the Prophet Muhammad taught, ‘let him treat people the way he would love to be treated.'”
Obama continued, “For Christians like myself, I’m assuming that sounds familiar.”
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.