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President Obama to visit mosque, hold talks with Muslim leaders

The visit, which comes amid growing concern about Islamophobia, will be Obama's first to an American mosque as president.
U.S. President Barack Obama walks to Marine One as he departs from the White House in Washington, Jan. 28, 2016. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
U.S. President Barack Obama walks to Marine One as he departs from the White House in Washington, Jan. 28, 2016. 

PresidentBarack Obama plans to visit a mosque in Baltimore on Wednesday and meet with Muslim community members amid growing concern about Islamophobia and bigotry directed toward Muslim Americans.White House officials, who announced the president's visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Saturday, said this will be Obama's first stop at an American mosque as president. He will deliver remarks."The president believes that one of our nation's greatest strengths is our rich diversity," White House spokesman Keith Maley told the Baltimore Sun, which first reported the visit.  "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."The president has been outspoken about the treatment of Muslims following the recent San Bernardino shootings and the Paris attacks, which have triggered Islamophobic reactions.Obama has also condemned calls made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who said he would ban Muslims from entering the U.S., citing fears of domestic terrorism carried out by extremist groups.Other GOP candidates have vowed to pass legislation that would limit the resettlement of refugees from Syria, Iraq and territories that ISIS has occupied.

Ibrahim Hooper, national spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, America's largest Muslim civil liberties organization, welcomed the president’s move and told MSNBC that it’s long overdue.“American Muslim community leaders have been asking President Obama for years to visit an American mosque. [We’re] glad he has taken that step. The reason we ask is to send a message of inclusion and religious diversity at a time of skyrocketing Islamophobia in our nation.”