US President Barack Obama is to make his first visit to a mosqueduring his time in office next week to make a plea for tolerance, the White House says.
The White House, making the announcement on Saturday, said Obama will visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque on Wednesday, and will speak with its members about tolerance and religious freedom.
“On Wednesday, February 3rd, the President will travel to Maryland to visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque to celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life,” a White House official said in a statement.
“The President will hold a roundtable with community members and deliver remarks, where he will 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 visit comes at a time when American Muslims have reported a surge in inflammatory rhetoric, linked partly to comments from US Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who has called for a temporary ban on allowing Muslims to enter the country.
Muslim groups and legal experts have criticized Trump’s inflammatory language. During the state of union address in January, Obama also indirectly took a jab at Trump’s presidential campaign rhetoric, saying an insult to Muslims diminishes America in the eyes of the world.
The Islamic Society of Baltimore, in the city of Catonsville, located in the west of Baltimore, was established by a handful of families in 1969, according to its website. It includes a school, a nursery and a health clinic.
The website says the center “aspires to be the anchor of a growing Muslim community with diverse backgrounds, democratically governed, relating to one another with inclusiveness and tolerance.”