President Obama plans to make his first presidential visit to an American mosque on Wednesday to deliver a message about religious tolerance — and to challenge what he sees as Republican intolerance on the campaign trail.
The president will visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore, one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest Muslim centers, to urge Americans to embrace the diversity of their neighbors, including the millions of Muslim citizens.
While he won’t mention Donald Trump or any other GOP candidates by name, one top aide said, Obama wants to speak out against what he sees as a strain of Islamaphobia aimed at playing on fears of domestic terrorism.
“The kind of rhetoric that we’ve seen from Republicans didn’t just emanate from Mr. Trump,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. “It has, unfortunately, infected our political debate in a way that doesn’t reflect the values that are so central to the founding of our country.”
He won the White House in 2008 only after a concerted effort to prove to voters that he is a Christian who did not inherit his grandfather’s Muslim religion along with his father’s Islamic-sounding name. He and his family occasionally attend church services.