Here’s everything one needs to know about President Barack Obama’s first ever visit to a mosque in Baltimore: He preached religious tolerance — which is a good thing. He lauded American Muslims for their achievements — which, again, was a very nice thing to say. He encouraged young American Muslims to not fear lack of acceptance — which by far was the most poignant message of his speech in the wake of the ongoing rise in Islamophobic sentiment in the United States.
All in all, Obama denounced bigotry and endorsed interfaith solidarity. He condemned evil and advocated peace.
Yet, some people managed to criticize his move regardless.
Predictably the first person to voice his cynicism was, of course, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump who previously questioned Obama’s religious background.
The media mogul shared his (signature) disparaging comments during an interview with Fox News's Greta Van Susteren.
"I don't have much thought, I think that we can go to lots of places. Right now, I don't know if he's — maybe he feels comfortable there," Trump said. "We have a lot of problems in this country, Greta, there are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque. I saw that just a little while ago, and so that's his decision, that's fine."
Another person who found fault with Obama’s mosque tour was yet another Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, according to whom promoting interfaith harmony was — somehow — intended to divide, rather than unite, the American people.
"I'm tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president's done," he said at a recent campaign stop in Dover, New Hampshire. "Always pitting people against each other. Always! Look at today: He gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims."
Needless to say, Rubio completely missed the point.
Over the past few months, following attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Muslims in the U.S. experienced an unprecedented increase in hate crimes and bias incidents. A December 2015 YouGov poll found 55 percent of surveyed Americans had an “unfavorable” opinion of Islam.
Surely, it doesn’t prove that American is discriminating against Muslims but it does show how Muslims are experiencing discrimination in America.
"Of course there's discrimination in America, of every kind,” Rubio added. “But the bigger issue is radical Islam. And by the way, radical Islam poses a threat to Muslims themselves. They argue that. They'll tell you that. But again, it's this constant pitting people against each other. I can't stand that. It's hurting our country badly."
Again, it’s true radical Islam poses a threat to Muslims themselves — in fact, Muslims are the biggest victims of Islamic terrorism — but the president’s visit was not a political one. It was simply meant to make American Muslims feel they are appreciated and welcome in the American society and Obama did just that.
It was Rubio’s remarks — as well as Trump’s, for that matter — that were politically charged. Both of them used rather weak and unreasonable excuses to attack the president and his policies. But then again, that’s what they do, even if they have to denounce an attempt toward peace and harmony.