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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama has delivered measured remarks to Muslims attending the annual Ramadan iftar dinner at the White House.

Some attendees at Monday night's event were angry about a magazine's report that the National Security Agency and the FBI scanned the emails of five prominent Muslim-Americans under a secret surveillance program aimed at foreign terrorists and other national security threats.

The Obama administration has not confirmed the report in The Intercept. But the president said that "no one should ever be targeted or disparaged because of their faith."

He also said that Americans have the right to practice any faith or no faith and can change religions. Not mentioned was the fact that Muslims in other parts of the world can be charged with apostasy if they convert to another religion. The president also praised an attendee from the Ahmadi branch of Islam, which many Muslims consider heretical.

Amid new conflict in the Mideast, Obama said that while the deaths of Palestinian civilians are tragic, Israel has the right to defend itself against "inexcusable" rocket attacks. He added that "further escalation benefits no one."

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