At the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a 47-year-old mosque with thousands of attendees, Obama to herald the contributions of Muslims to American society while issuing a forceful counterpoint to the language favored by some Republican presidential candidates like Donald Trump, according to White House officials.
“We’ve seen an alarming willingness on the part of some Republicans to try to marginalize law-abiding, patriotic Muslim Americans,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday. “It’s just offensive to a lot of Americans who recognize that those kinds of cynical political tactics run directly contrary to the values that we hold dear in this country. And I think the President is looking forward to the opportunity to make that point.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest laid out some of Obama’s plans at his Tuesday briefing, arguing that working with the American Muslim community was the best way to fight terrorism.
“We will have more success in our efforts to prevent that if we work effectively with the Muslim community to confront that threat, as opposed to branding everybody who attends a mosque as a potential enemy of the United States of America,” Earnest said.
The trip comes seven years into Obama’s presidency, during which he has faced false accusations he secretly practices Islam. The president is a Christian. His trip is also an opportunity for the president to use his bully pulpit with the race to succeed him officially underway, with the Iowa caucuses taking place Monday.
Obama, whose grandfather converted to Islam, will make the short helicopter ride to the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque, where he will meet community leaders and deliver remarks. He has visited mosques from Malaysia, to Indonesia and Egypt as president, but has yet to visit one America’s 2,000-plus places of Islamic worship. In 2009, a freshly elected Obama traveled to the Egyptian capital to call for a “new beginning” with the Muslim world.
White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Obama will “affirm the important role that Muslim Americans play in our society” and argue that “law-abiding Americans should be able to worship God in the manner that they see fit.”
“And they shouldn’t be subject to ridicule or targeting by anybody, let alone somebody who aspires to leading the country,” Earnest added.
“We have seen an alarming willingness on the part of some Republicans to try to marginalize law-abiding, patriotic Muslim Americans, and it is offensive. “Obama is also likely to restate his case that groups like Islamic State pervert Islam and do not represent the vast majority of Muslims.
The United States is home to around 3.3 million Muslims. Around 81 Muslim-Americans were involved in violent extremist plots in 2015, according to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.
But Obama is also expected to call on Muslim leaders to help tackle radicalization. “We know that there are extremist organizations like IS that are seeking to use social media to radicalize vulnerable members of the population,” said Earnest.
“Certainly the leaders in the Muslim community have a strong interest in preventing that from happening.”