What will Obama say at a mosque? The same thing he told Israelis

President Obama is expected to continue a message of speaking out against bias and bigotry during his first-ever visit to an American mosque Wednesday.

Achmad Ibrahim/AP/File
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama visit Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Nov. 10, 2010. Obama is expected to continue a message of speaking out against bias and bigotry during his first-ever visit to an American mosque Wednesday.

President Obama is expected to discuss the need for protest against bias and bigotry when he makes his first visit to an American mosque on Wednesday.

His planned visit is set for the Islamic Society of Baltimore, which contains both a mosque and a K-12 school.

The White House has said Mr. Obama’s message will parallel his remarks to Jews last week, when he became the first president to speak at the Israeli embassy while in office. He warned of increasing anti-Semitism worldwide.

In Wednesday’s mosque visit, he is likewise expected to address bias against Muslims, and the importance of speaking boldly against such bias and religious intolerance. Obama’s visits to mosques outside of the United States have included similar rhetoric.

“America and Islam are not exclusive,” he said at Cairo University after touring the Sultan Hassan mosque in Egypt in June 2009.

During that visit just months into his presidency he spoke warmly to the Islamic community and raised Muslim expectations of him worldwide. He described the “common principles of justice and progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings" shared by Americans and Muslims.

Muslim-American leaders say they have been hoping he would follow up with a visit to an American mosque for some time, as an increased level of anti-Muslim sentiment – including protests outside mosques around the country last year – has followed the uptick in terrorist violence by the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

"I don't think there's ever been this level of fear and apprehension in the Muslim-American community,” Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Associated Press.

Many American Islamic leaders have publicly denounced such violence, as they have pressed for support from the government.

"For some time, we've been asking for pushback,” Mr. Hooper told the AP. “Perhaps this will start a trend.”

To some, however, Obama’s visit appears somewhat late in coming. With less than a year left in his tenure as president, he has “left it literally to the last,” said Akbar Ahmed, an American University professor specializing in American mosques.

“Better late than never,” Mr. Ahmed told the AP.

Former President George W. Bush visited the Islamic Society days after terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and he repeatedly affirmed that Americans should have no quarrel with the peaceful majority of the Muslim world.

Other government leaders have also visited mosques more recently to express support and the need for tolerant dialogue. Sen. Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona attended a mosque in his home state with a message of appreciation for American Muslims and their contribution to the United States, the Arizona Republic reported.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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