Set against an election year that many say has been robust with inflammatory language about Muslims, President Barack Obama plans to head to an Islamic center in Baltimore Wednesday. The visit marks the first time Obama has visited a mosque since becoming president.
The Islamic Society of Baltimore, also known as Masjid al-Rahmah, is a 47-year-old center that is one of Maryland’s largest mosques. The center has been on the receiving end of threats in recent months, as police have boosted security amid a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes.
While Obama has not until now visited a mosque during his presidency, he has frequently spoken about Muslims. He has defended the religion from claims that it is violent, or that extremists are representative of the faith. He has also called on Muslims to take the lead in the fight against extremism.
— AJ+ (@ajplus) February 3, 2016
Here are some of his past statements:
1. Announcing military action against ISIS — which he refers to with the alternative acronym “ISIL” — Obama said: “Let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’ No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state.”
2. In an op-ed on the fight against extremism in the Los Angeles Times, Obama wrote: “The world must continue to lift up the voices of Muslim clerics and scholars who teach the true peaceful nature of Islam... We can echo the testimonies of former extremists who know how terrorists betray Islam. We can help Muslim entrepreneurs and youths work with the private sector to develop social media tools to counter extremist narratives on the Internet.”
3. Critiquing intolerance in some Muslim societies, Obama said: "Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance... This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it's being challenged in many different ways. Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith."
— ABC News (@ABC) February 3, 2016
4. Perhaps Obama's most famous speech pertaining to Muslims was in 2009 at Cairo university in Cairo, Egypt, meant to ease strained relations with the Muslim world after taking office. "Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality."
5. During the same speech in Cairo, he said he understands and respects Islam as a great world religion: "So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear."
6. In 2009, Obama emphasized Muslim contributions to the U.S. during a Ramadan dinner: "The contribution of Muslims to the United States are too long to catalog because Muslims are so interwoven into the fabric of our communities and our country."
7. Speaking on Muslim contributions to the U.S. again in 2013, he reiterated: "Throughout our history, Islam has contributed to the character of our country, and Muslim Americans, and their good works, have helped to build our nation -- and we’ve seen the results. We’ve seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants -- farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities. Muslim innovators who helped build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped to unlock the secrets of our universe."
Mosque to host President Obama today grew from tiny gathering to influential congregation https://t.co/nAzcqhiYzS
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) February 3, 2016
8. Obama condemned religious intolerance both from Muslim extremists and those against Islam: "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied."
9. Obama again reiterated that Americans are united beyond faith-lines at the United Nations in 2014: "Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them – there is only us, because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country."
10. Obama countered the idea that the West is at war with Islam: “The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie. And all of us, regardless of our faith, have a responsibility to reject it.”