President Obama to Visit US Mosque for 1st Time in His Presidency

The president seeks to promote religious tolerance at a time when the Muslim-American community feels vulnerable.

President Barack Obama tours the Blue Mosque on April 7, 2009, in Istanbul. 
President Barack Obama tours the Blue Mosque on April 7, 2009, in Istanbul.  Anatolian/Pool/Getty Images

The White House announced Saturday that President Barack Obama will visit a mosque in Maryland, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Obama plans to meet with community leaders Wednesday and deliver remarks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore. It will be Obama’s first visit to a U.S. mosque during his time in office.

“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,” said White House spokesman Keith Maley.

He added that Obama believes that America’s diversity is “one of our nation’s greatest strengths.”

A group of families who met for Friday prayers at Johns Hopkins University established the mosque in 1969. The worship center, which now includes a housing complex and primary school, has reportedly received threats to “spill Muslim blood.”

The visit also seeks to show support to Muslim Americans at a time of growing nervousness over a backlash from terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., as well as fear that campaign rhetoric from Donald Trump is stoking hatred.  

Muslim American leaders are praising the announcement.

“For a number of years we’ve been encouraging the president to go to an American mosque. With the tremendous rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in our country, we believe that it will send a message of inclusion and mutual respect,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Read more at the Baltimore Sun.