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Obama to make first visit to mosque amid anti-Muslim sentiment

US President Barack Obama will make his first visit to a US mosque as American Muslims are increasingly concerned about the rise in anti-Islamic sentiment in the country.

Obama will travel to the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Wednesday to speak to Americans on behalf of Muslim citizens, looking to counter poisonous election-year rhetoric from Republican candidates.

The US president will sit down with members of the Muslim community in Maryland at the sprawling mosque to “affirm our conviction in the principle of religious liberty,” White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said on Tuesday.

“Law abiding Americans should be able to worship God in the way that they see fit, consistent with their religious heritage and traditions in a way that doesn’t subject them to either interference from the government or, frankly, divisive rhetoric on the campaign trail,” he added.

Earnest said it was “offensive” that some Republicans campaigning to replace Obama have shown an “alarming willingness” to “marginalize law-abiding, patriotic Muslim Americans.”

Republican front-runner Donald Trump has routinely made anti-Muslim remarks during his campaign events, including proposals to close some mosques and ban Muslims from entering the US.

Obama took office in January 2009, promising to reach out to Muslims around the world and reset a relationship damaged by the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is making his first trip to an American mosque in the final year of his presidency at a time when Muslims have reported an uptick in harassment and attacks against them across the country.

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