The White House on Monday began "staff-level" meetings and calls with religious leaders to discuss how they could help combat growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, and Melissa Rogers, who leads the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, held a conference call with leaders of all religions from across the country.
"Spoke with 890+ religious leaders to thank them for speaking up for every American's right to be free from religious discrimination," Jarrett tweeted on Monday.
On behalf of President Obama, I thanked them for raising their voices, as so many of you have, against religious discrimination and bigotry.— Valerie Jarrett (@vj44) December 14, 2015
Administration officials "routinely" interact with religious leaders, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday, stressing that the latest round of talks is being led by staff members, not the president.
The call Jarrett led was a "conversation to discuss efforts to combat discrimination and highlight the need for welcoming all faiths and beliefs," Earnest said. "It certainly seems a timely topic for a conversation like that," he said, noting the uptick in anti-Muslim rhetoric since the radical Islamic terrorist group, the so-called Islamic State, launched deadly attacks in Paris and inspired a shooting spree in San Bernardino, Calif.
The "hateful, divisive" comments of a "handful of Republicans running for president is hurtful and dangerous" to the nation's national security, Earnest said, presumably referring to candidates such as Donald Trump, who has proposed banning all Muslims from the U.S.
Also on Monday, Jarrett, Director of the White House's Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz, and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes are hosting a group of Muslim-American leaders at the White House, Earnest said.
And finally, Munoz is meeting with representatives of America's Sikh community, Earnest said.
In addition to a massacre at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012, hate crimes against Sikhs have spiked since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, often because attackers mistook Sikhism adherents for Muslims.
The White House is hosting similar meetings all week, including one on Thursday, Earnest said.
"Again these are all slated to be staff-level meetings but yet, are representative of the kind of ongoing dialogue that the White House maintains with religious leaders of all faiths all across the country," Earnest said.