Today, President Barack Obama will visit the Islamic Society in Baltimore, responding to anti-Muslim statements made recently by a number of Republican candidates. According to the New York Times:
The visit comes as White House officials say that Mr. Obama has become increasingly outraged by what he sees as intolerant and divisive rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates, who the president believes are demonizing all Muslims for the murderous acts of a few, administration officials said. Dr. Barakat strongly agrees with this view.
“There are definitely impacts and consequences to words that candidates like Trump and Carson say,” Dr. Barakat said in an interview on Tuesday, referring to Donald J. Trump and Ben Carson. “For them, it’s political gain. For American Muslims, it can be their lives.”
Mr. Trump has advocated barring Muslims from the United States. Mr. Carson has called for close scrutiny of Muslim Americans. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, both Republican presidential candidates, have suggested admitting only refugees who are Christian.
Anti-Muslim attacks have grown in the last few months following violence in Paris and California:
“He’ll talk about how some have conflated the recent horrific acts of terrorists with an entire faith, and how that type of language contributes to making us less safe,” said Jen Psaki, Mr. Obama’s communications director. “An entire community is being blamed for the acts of a few.”
The day will include remarks from the President and roundtable discussions. The schedule can be found on the White House website here.
The Baltimore Sun carries a story on the mosque the President will visit, founded in 1969 and with current congregation numbering around 3,000:
When President Barack Obama steps shoeless into the prayer room at the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Wednesday, he’ll be entering a mosque that began as a small Sunday gathering at the Johns Hopkins University but is now one of the largest and most influential Muslim communities in the Mid-Atlantic.
It will be Obama’s first visit to an American mosque as president. The White House says the event, in which Obama is to participate in a roundtable discussion with community leaders, is designed to reinforce the ideal of religious tolerance at a time when anti-Muslim sentiment is growing…
Some news outlets have been focusing on more controversial aspects of the mosque’s history, including a former congregant, convicted al-Qaida member Majid Khan, and a former imam at the mosque, Mohamad Adam El Sheikh:
In 2004, after he left the Islamic Society of Baltimore, El Sheikh was quoted by the Washington Post as saying that suicide bombings might be acceptable in extreme circumstances.
In response to written questions, El Sheikh said Tuesday he had never condoned suicide attacks. He called them “un-Islamic.”
“I have spoken out repeatedly and consistentlyagainst terrorism and religious extremism and in support of freedom and justice for all people,” he said.
He expressed the same view to The Baltimore Sun in 1985, during his tenure as imam.
The president’s remarks today:
Photo: Al-Rahmah School at the Islamic Society of Baltimore