Barack Obama's first-ever visit to a mosque in the United States since becoming president delivers a "mixed message to all people concerned about terrorism," renowned civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz tells Newsmax TV
"One message he's sending is no guilt by association. Just because a past imam may have had some ties to bad guys, doesn't mean that we have to generalize and not visit a mosque, which may have a lot of good people," the Harvard Law professor emeritus said Wednesday on "Newsmax Prime" with J.D. Hayworth.
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"On the other hand, it also sends a message that perhaps the president isn't as careful as he
could be in selecting which mosque to go to. Perhaps he could've selected a mosque where you had people who are very actively involved in helping our Justice Department and other national security people in ferreting out terrorism.
"We need the cooperation of Muslim leaders and Muslim people in helping us to identify terrorism. It's a mixed message and it could've been better organized."
Obama, who spoke at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque on Wednesday afternoon, has visited mosques around the world on official trips during his seven years as president.
But this is his first trek to an American mosque.
The White House says the visit was made was a defense of religious freedom and stand against bigotry — including anti-Muslim rhetoric allegedly spouted during the 2016 presidential race.
In his address, Obama told the applauding mosque audience: "Muslim Americans keep us safe. They are our police. They are our fire fighters. They're in (the Department of) Homeland Security."
Dershowitz said he is unsure whether the choice of the Maryland mosque over another fellowship was a deliberately provocative move by Obama's advisers.
"It's not clear. The president and his advisors make mistakes so you never know. You always should assume foolishness rather than malice on the part of any public official," Dershowitz said.
"But here you have a president who just a short number of days ago went to the Israeli embassy and declared we are all Jews when it comes to fighting anti-Semitism. The other thing you have to know is whether or not anti-Semitism or anti-Israeli attitudes are preached to this mosque.
"I'd like to know a lot more about the mosque before I come to a final conclusion but you'd think the president could've gone out of his way to find a mosque which has an affirmative positive involvement in the war against terrorism."
The 3,000-member Islamic Society of Baltimore, founded in 1969, houses a mosque, school, seminary, Girl Scout troop, and athletic club, The Baltimore Sun reports
In recent days, media outlets have reported that a former longtime imam at the mosque, Mohamad Adam El Sheikh, was quoted by the Washington Post after leaving the mosque that suicide bombings might be acceptable in extreme circumstances.
But El Sheikh told The Sun in an email Tuesday he had never condoned suicide attacks, which he called "un-Islamic."
Dershowitz is the author of the new book, "Abraham: The World's First (But Certainly Not Last) Jewish Lawyer,"
published by Schocken.
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