By Ben Kamisar
Marco Rubio accused President Obama of peddling a "fiction" that Muslim Americans are facing discrimination.
Asked during the ABC News GOP debate on Saturday if he would ever visit a mosque as president, as Obama did this week, Rubio said he would.
"My problem with what he did is that he continues to put out this fiction that there is widespread, systematic discrimination of Muslim Americans," Rubio said.
FBI statistics from November show that anti-Muslim hate crimes went up by 14 percent between 2013 and 2014, even as hate crimes across the board went down. The Southern Poverty Law Center noted those statistics came out before a terrorist attack in Paris and shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., and claims the "trend seems destined to accelerate."
At the debate, Rubio went on to accuse President Obama of discriminating against Christians by restricting their freedom of religion, noting lawsuits challenging ObamaCare's birth control mandate.
"It is important also to recognize, do you want to talk about religious discrimination in America? I don't think Barack Obama is being sued by any Islamic groups, but he is being sued by the Little Sisters of the Poor," he said.
"We are facing, in this country, Christian groups and groups that hold traditional values who feel, and in fact, are being discriminated against by the laws of this country."
Rubio added that Muslim Americans have died serving in the armed forces and their religion is noted on tombstones in military cemeteries.
He added that America faces a "significant threat of homegrown, violent extremism." He said America needs to have strong relationships with the Islamic community so people feel comfortable reporting dangerous activity to police.
This story was updated at 11:16 p.m.