The Single Reason Why President Obama Visiting A Mosque Is So Incredibly Important
For the first time during his time in office, President Obama will visit a U.S. mosque on Wednesday. The president will travel to the Islamic Society of Baltimore for the historic visit, located just an hour's drive from his home in Washington, D.C. For the past seven years, Obama has tip-toed around the delicate subject of Islam in America, but now, at this politically critical time leading up to the next presidential elections, the president is throwing his full support behind the Islamic community. It's a strong message to Muslims and to the entire country about which political party is invested in fighting Islamophobia and intolerance.
Obama's visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore is also a subtle thumbing of his nose at the persistent conspiracy theories that have surrounded his birthplace and religion throughout his entire presidency and candidacy (partially spearheaded by Donald Trump). Although Obama has visited foreign mosques on state trips, the president has so far avoided making a visit here, undoubtedly trying to avoid the conservative media backlash from the 43 percent of Republicans who think he is Muslim and hiding his true religion from the world. Now in his final year of office, Obama has already shown that he is more willing to make politically risky moves, including the upcoming visit to Baltimore.
The visit will make Obama the third president to visit a U.S. mosque during office. The only two previous presidents to make the trip were Dwight D. Eisenhower, who dedicated the Islamic Center of Washington in D.C. in 1957, and George W. Bush, who visited the same mosque shortly after 9/11. President Obama's decision to visit a different mosque than his predecessors seems symbolic of his dedication to tolerance and acceptance of Muslim Americans.
It's a dedication he hopes to share with the next president, whom he is absolutely sure will be a Democrat. The future of the party rests partially on maintaining the balance that Obama has managed between harsh condemnation of radical Islam and warm acceptance of the Muslim-American community. By visiting the mosque so close to the beginning of primary season, Obama is signaling, both to the American people and the next president, that targeting Islamophobia is one of the biggest challenges and most important goals of the succeeding administration.
“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," one White House staffer told The Washington Post on Saturday. That message of diversity and inclusion will have interesting and important resonance, not just in the last days of Obama's presidency, but also in the next administration.