Obama's First US Mosque Visit Not a Presidential 1st

That honor is thought to go to Dwight Eisenhower
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 3, 2016 12:12 PM CST
Obama's First US Mosque Visit Not a Presidential 1st
President Barack Obama meets with members of Muslim-American community at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Baltimore, Md.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

For Muslim advocates, President Obama's first visit to a US mosque on Wednesday was a long-awaited gesture to a community that has warned of escalating vitriol against them. Although Obama has visited mosques overseas in the past, he waited until his final year in office to make such a visit at home, reflecting the sensitivity of the issue, reports the AP. At the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Obama sat down around a large table with Muslim university chaplains, community activists, and public health professionals for a discussion about religious tolerance and freedom. An afternoon speech will address how the US can more successfully confront extremism if it works with Muslims instead of branding all of them as potential enemies.

One of the participants meeting with Obama, Ibtihaj Muhammad, has qualified for a spot on the United States Olympic Team for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. The White House said she'll make history as the first United States Olympian to compete in a hijab. (See this Buzzfeed profile on the fencer.) Though it's a first for Obama, it's far from a presidential first: Time cites the State Department in reporting that President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the first presidential speech on record at a mosque on our own soil to mark the 1957 dedication of the Islamic Center of Washington. That, incidentally, is also the mosque President George W. Bush visited just days after the 9/11 attacks. (Read more mosque stories.)

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