Rubio, who often stresses religious liberty and his own faith on the campaign trail, said Obama's words at a Baltimore mosque were 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," Rubio said at a Wednesday 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."
Rubio added: "Of course there's discrimination in America, of every kind. 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."
In an historic visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Obama, in his first visit to a mosque as president, proclaimed attacks on Islam as attacks on all faiths and urged awareness of how Islamophobia affects Muslim children. He didn't name names, but implicitly referred to Republican presidential candidates, like Donald Trump, who last year proposed a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the United States, and widespread Republican opposition to Syrian refugees, even those who are children, being allowed into the country.
“We have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion,” Obama said, praising American Muslims and their role in U.S. history.
Obama isn't the first president to visit a mosque in order to stress unity and tolerance. President George W. Bush did so days after the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks to reassure American Muslims.
The president's speech received praise from some Republicans. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Rubio rival in the race for the GOP nomination, said it was "important for the president to lead in this regard" and "important for people to know that they have worth, that they have value, that we’re all, you know, we’re all American."
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, no friend of Obama, called the president's speech "superb."