President Obama will visit Maryland's Islamic Society of Baltimore next week, something guaranteed to make America's less tolerant folks lose their damn minds.
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.”
At the Islamic Society, the president will hold a roundtable discussion with community members, the official said.
The visit will be part of the tightrope-walking Obama has done during his presidency around Islam.
For years, Muslim Americans have lobbied him to visit a mosque, citing Islamophobia. At the same time, a segment of Obama’s critics have said since he took office that he is a Muslim pretending to be Christian, and that he plays down the religious aspect of Muslim extremism. Recent polls show that 29 percent of Americans and nearly 45 percent of Republicans think he is a Muslim. The visit comes in the last year of his presidency.
The possibility of a mosque visit came up again a month ago, when several prominent Muslim Americans met with senior White House officials to discuss concerns about rising hostility toward people of their faith. During that session _ which was attended by White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Domestic Policy Council director Cecilia Muñoz and deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes — the Islamic leaders asked for Obama to visit a mosque, ideally with former president George W. Bush.
Presidents rarely visit houses of worship, aside from when they have attended church for their own religious practices. Obama regularly attends religious services on key holidays. In May, he visited a synagogue for the first time as president.
In 2001, Bush visited the Islamic Cultural Center of Washington, six days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, where he declared, “Islam is peace,” and “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.”
I'm very glad to see President Obama do this, and for the right reasons. It's a major contrast to the GOP, which apparently has no problem with tracking, interment, and deportation of Muslims for the crime of being Muslim.
And speaking of that, Dubya was one of the loudest voices in 2001 to tamp down Islamophobia after 9/11. Where is that voice now?
Guess we'll never know.