President Barack Obama will visit a mosque in Baltimore County next week amid growing concern about hostility directed toward Muslim Americans -- marking the first time Obama has visited a U.S. mosque as president. Obama will deliver remarks on Wednesday 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. 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.
On Sept. 17, 2001, less than a week after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush visited the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. It was among the most striking acts of his tenure: Bush, concerned about the public targeting Muslim Americans, urged the public to "understand" that the terrorist acts violate "the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith."
The Republican president, during brief remarks, not only quoted the Koran, Bush also declared, "Islam is peace."
More than 14 years later, another president is concerned about the public lashing out violently at innocent members of a religious minority -- and he's doing something similar about it. The Baltimore Sun reported over the weekend:
White House spokesman Keith Maley told the Sun, "The president believes that one of our nation's greatest strengths is our rich diversity. 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 move comes against the backdrop of the 2016 campaign, featuring a Republican frontrunner who's running on a controversial platform, which includes blocking foreign Muslims from entering the United States -- a ridiculous policy that Donald Trump's rivals have been cautious about criticizing.
Of course, it's likely that Obama's more unhinged critics will use this to renew right-wing conspiracy theories about the president's faith, but it's heartening that the White House just doesn't seem to care.