Washington – President Barack Obama will visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore next Wednesday, a senior administration official said Saturday.
Even though Mr. Obama has visited several mosques overseas, this will mark the first time the president visits a mosque during his presidency.
The White House announced on Saturday that Mr. Obama will visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Wednesday, which has deep ties to extremist elements, including the Muslim Brotherhood. The mosque is a member of a network of mosques controlled by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a Muslim civil rights group named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terror case. Several executives with that organization were convicted of sending money to aid the terrorist group Hamas.
According to a White House official Obama will visit the Islamic Society “to celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life.” This is part of the administration’s ambition to promote religious tolerance during this time when people easily confuse Islamic believes with terrorism.
“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,” a White House official wrote in an email.
At the Islamic Society, the President is expected to hold a roundtable discussion with some community members to “reiterate the importance of staying true to our core values — welcoming our fellow Americans, speaking out against bigotry, rejecting indifference and protecting our nation’s tradition of religious freedom,” the official said.
This comes as big news for a big community of Muslim Americans that have been pushing the president to visit a mosque, citing Islamophobia. Last month, several prominent Muslim Americans met with senior White House officials to discuss concerns about rising hostility toward people of their faith, but on the other hand, Mr. Obama has been vocal in his support of Muslims in the U.S., particularly after the call of presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s for a temporary ban of Muslims from entering the country.
During the annual House Democratic Caucus retreat in Baltimore on Thursday, Obama stated that the country was not going to strengthen its leadership around the world by allowing politicians to insult Muslims or pit groups of Americans against each other.