The White House announced on Saturday that US President Barack Obama will make his first official visit to a mosque on Wednesday. The visit is intended to promote religious tolerance and combat the anti-Islamic rhetoric that links the religion to terrorism. The president will visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore, one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest Muslim centers. The visit was confirmed by an announcement on their website.
White House spokesman Keith Maley said in an e-mail on Saturday that the president is making the visit “to celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life.”
“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.”
President Obama has visited mosques outside of the United States when abroad on official visits. He toured the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta in 2010.
The Islamic Society of Baltimore has been the victim of threats in recent months, including one telephone bomb threat. The Washington Post reported it was the mosque of the family of Adnan Sayed, who was convicted for the murder of Hae Min Lee in 1999. The trial was the subject of the podcast Serial in 2014, which brought international attention to Syed’s trial.