Obama, in mosque visit, says an attack on Islam is an attack on all faiths

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CATONSVILLE, Md. (Reuters) -- U.S. President Barack Obama visited an American mosque on Wednesday and declared that attacks on Islam were an attack on all religions, in an effort to counter rhetoric from Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates that has alienated Muslims.

READ MORE: Republican presidential campaign turns nastier; field narrows

"We have to understand that an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths," Obama said at the mosque in Catonsville, Maryland, outside Baltimore.

See more of the trip in the gallery below:

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Obama, in mosque visit, says an attack on Islam is an attack on all faiths
US President Barack Obama's motorcade is seen as he visits the Islamic Society of Baltimore February 3, 2016 in Windsor Mill, Maryland. Seven years into his presidency, Barack Obama makes his first trip to an American mosque on February 4, offering a high-profile rebuttal of harsh Republican election-year rhetoric against Muslims. Obama, whose grandfather converted to Islam, made the short trip to the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque, where he will meet community leaders and deliver remarks. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Secret Service agent stands watch as President Barack Obama and his entourage enter the grounds of the Islamic Society of Baltimore in Windsor Mill, Md., where he spoke and met with Muslim leaders on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama greets attendees in an overflow room after speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in Windsor Mill, Maryland,on February 3, 2016. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama arrives wearing socks to speak at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in Windsor Mill, Maryland on February 3, 2016. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Girl Scout color guard carries the US flag before an address by US President Barack Obama at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in Windsor Mill, Maryland on February 3, 2016. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Girls hold US flags while waiting for US President Barack Obama after he spoke at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in Windsor Mill, Maryland on February 3, 2016. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama greets attendees in an overflow room after speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in Windsor Mill, Maryland,on February 3, 2016. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Children from Al-Rahmah school and other guests react after seeing President Barack Obama during his visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Baltimore, Md. Obama is making his first visit to a U.S. mosque at a time Muslim-Americans say they're confronting increasing levels of bias in speech and deeds. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama shakes hand with students of the Al-Rahmah School during his visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
President Barack Obama greets children from Al-Rahmah school and other guests during his visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Baltimore, Md. Obama is making his first visit to a U.S. mosque at a time Muslim-Americans say they're confronting increasing levels of bias in speech and deeds. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Young girls close their hands in anticipation of 'fist-bumping' President Barack Obama, right, who stop by to greet school children and other guest after speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Baltimore, Md. Obama is making his first visit to a U.S. mosque at a time Muslim-Americans say they're confronting increasing levels of bias in speech and deeds. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Copies of the Quran are seen on reserved chairs prior to a speech by US President Barack Obama at the Islamic Society of Baltimore February 3, 2016 in Windsor Mill, Maryland. Seven years into his presidency, Barack Obama made his first trip to an American mosque on February 4, offering a high-profile rebuttal of harsh Republican election-year rhetoric against Muslims. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama attends a roundtable discussion with members of the Muslim community while visiting the Islamic Society of Baltimore February 3, 2016 in Windsor Mill, Maryland. Seven years into his presidency, Barack Obama made his first trip to an American mosque on February 4, offering a high-profile rebuttal of harsh Republican election-year rhetoric against Muslims. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama participates in a roundtable discussion with members of the Muslim community while visiting the Islamic Society of Baltimore February 3, 2016 in Windsor Mill, Maryland. Seven years into his presidency, Barack Obama made his first trip to an American mosque on February 4, offering a high-profile rebuttal of harsh Republican election-year rhetoric against Muslims. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama participates in a roundtable discussion with members of the Muslim community while visiting the Islamic Society of Baltimore February 3, 2016 in Windsor Mill, Maryland. Seven years into his presidency, Barack Obama made his first trip to an American mosque on February 4, offering a high-profile rebuttal of harsh Republican election-year rhetoric against Muslims. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Geneva Pope, 28, center, and her twin, Gina, left, from Baltimore, wait for a glimpse of President Barack Obama, who visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore in Windsor Mill, Md., on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Jena Luedtke, left, talks with Sabreenah Khan, a student at College Park, as they wait for President Barack Obama's visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks to members of the Muslim-American community at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Baltimore, Md. Obama is making his first visit to a U.S. mosque at a time Muslim-Americans say they're confronting increasing levels of bias in speech and deeds. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama speaks to members of the Muslim-American community at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Baltimore, Md. Obama is making his first visit to a U.S. mosque at a time Muslim-Americans say they're confronting increasing levels of bias in speech and deeds. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States after a California couple who killed 14 people last December were described by authorities as radicalized Muslims inspired by Islamic State militants.

Republicans vying to be the party's candidate for the Nov. 8 presidential election also have argued against Obama's plan to accept 10,000 refugees fleeing Syria's war, saying it raised national security risks.

Obama urged people watching on television who had never been to a mosque to think of it as similar to their own houses of worship.

"Think of your own church or synagogue or temple, and mosques like this will be very familiar," he said.

Before Obama's remarks a man and woman did a recitation from the Koran, then an honor guard of two boys and two girls carried the American and Maryland state flags into the mosque. The children led the audience, with some men in prayer caps and most women in head scarves, in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.

Obama urged young Muslims not to embrace a worldview that required them to choose between faith and patriotism.

Watch more coverage:

Obama: 'You Fit in Here'

The president, who is a Christian, said it was important to have more Muslim characters portrayed on television unrelated to national security themes, and he said engagement with Muslim American communities must not be a cover for surveillance.

To counter perverted versions of their religion portrayed by extremist groups such as Islamic State, Obama urged regular Muslims to "let your light shine," a Christian expression.

"This is a struggle between the peace-loving overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world and a radical tiny minority," he said. "Ultimately I'm confident that the overwhelming majority will win that battle."

Obama's motorcade zipped past two women holding signs protesting his visit and equating Islam to terrorism.

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