President Obama is set to travel on Wednesday to a place where most of the Republicans running for President wouldn’t dare to visit: A mosque.
Obama will make his first visit as President to a mosque on U.S. soil with a trip to the Islamic Society of Baltimore in Maryland.
Obama will deliver remarks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, located in Catonsville, and will meet with community members there to discuss religious freedom, White House officials said Saturday.
The visit is a symbolic gesture for Obama, who toured the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta in 2010, but who has not entered an American mosque during his seven years as president.
Administration officials hope the visit will send a message at a time when Muslim leaders are increasingly anxious about reactions following the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Several crimes directed at Muslims have received national attention since the attacks.
Obama’s visit comes at a time of increased right-wing hostility towards Muslims. Current Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump has called for increased surveillance of mosques, a ban on Muslim travel to the United States, and said he would consider a policy to number and track American Muslims.
His fellow Republicans have often been tepid in their condemnation of anti-Muslim policies, and Senator Marco Rubio even suggested that the idea that Muslims are being unfairly singled out in America is a myth.
By comparison, the Democratic candidates for President – Martin O’Malley, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, have been vociferous in their condemnation of Islamophobia, and have in varying ways all articulated a vision for Muslim inclusion in American life.
White House spokesman Keith Malley said, “The president believes that one of our nation’s greatest strengths is our rich diversity” and added, “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.”
Obama is putting his actions behind his administration’s words, again showing that freedom to worship as enshrined in the Constitution means all faiths, not just a select few.
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