Washington, 21 Rabiul Akhir 1437/31 January 2016 (MINA) – President Obama will make the first visit during his presidency to a U.S. mosque, the White House announced Saturday, as the administration tries to promote religious tolerance at a time when rhetoric linking Islam with terrorism is growing.
On Wednesday the president will visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a sprawling community center in the city’s western suburbs that serves thousands of people with a place of worship, a housing complex and schools, according to its website.
It is one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest Muslim centers and describes itself as aspiring “to be the anchor of a growing Muslim community with diverse backgrounds, democratically governed, relating to one another with inclusiveness and tolerance, and interacting with neighbors in an Islamic exemplary manner,” Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) reported, quoting the Washington Post.
The president is making the visit “to celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life,” a White House official wrote in an e-mail Saturday.
“The President believes that one of our nation’s greatest strengths is our rich diversity and the very idea that Americans of different faiths and backgrounds can thrive together – that we’re all part of the same American family.
As the President has said, Muslim Americans are our friends, and neighbors; our co-workers, and sports heroes – and our men and women in uniform defending our country.”
At the Islamic Society, the president will hold a roundtable discussion with community members, the official said.
The visit will be part of the tightrope-walking Obama has done during his presidency around Islam.
For years Muslim Americans have lobbied him to visit a mosque, citing Islamophobia. At the same time, a segment of Obama’s critics have said since he took office that he is a Muslim pretending to be Christian, and that he plays down the religious aspect of Muslim extremism. The visit comes in the last year of his presidency. (T/R07/R01)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)