Obama to make first US mosque visit in support of ‘religious freedom’
Obama’s only other visit to a mosque was the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2010, the country where “birthers” claim he was born as a Muslim, as opposed to his actual birthplace of Honolulu, Hawaii.
This week’s event is intended to counteract the anti-Muslim rhetoric spouted by politicians like Donald Trump as well as a wave of Islamophobic attacks.
Muslim Americans have been lobbying for a presidential visit to a mosque for years, according to the Washington Post.
The newspaper reports that a potential mosque visit was brought up at a recent White House meeting with prominent Muslim Americans during a discussion about hostility towards followers of the centuries-old religion.
Obama will reportedly “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 White House said in a statement quoted by Fox News.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) welcomed the president’s planned visit.
"For a number of years, we've been encouraging the president to go to an American mosque," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told the Baltimore Sun. "With the tremendous rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in our country, we believe that it will send a message of inclusion and mutual respect.”
A CNN/ORC poll from September 2015 reported that 29 percent of the 1,012 Americans polled think Obama, who is Christian, is Muslim.