President Obama will make the first visit during his presidency to a U.S. mosque, the White House announced Saturday, part of the administration's push to promote religious tolerance at a time when rhetoric linking Islam with terrorism is growing.
On Wednesday, the president will visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a sprawling community center in the city's western suburbs that serves thousands of people with a place of worship, a housing complex and schools, according to its website. It is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's largest Muslim centers and describes itself as aspiring "to be the anchor of a growing Muslim community with diverse backgrounds, democratically governed, relating to one another with inclusiveness and tolerance, and interacting with neighbors in an Islamic exemplary manner."
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," a White House official wrote in an email Saturday. "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."