President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to a mosque will mark his commitment to religious freedom and religious tolerance, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Obama’s first visit to an American mosque, coming in the last year of his presidency, will be Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Baltimore.
“He is really looking forward to his trip to the Islamic Center. It will be an opportunity to celebrate the contributions that Muslim Americans have made to our nation but also reaffirm the importance that religious freedom has to our way of life,” Earnest told reporters Monday.
Obama’s visit comes after Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has called for a halt to Muslim immigrants into the United States and as U.S. forces battle the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State, in parts of Iraq and Syria.
“There obviously has been some discussion of this in terms of the political debate,” Earnest said.
Both Obama and his predecessor, President George W. Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, have been adamant that terrorism doesn’t represent the beliefs of the Islamic faith.
Earnest noted that starting last week through the end of this week, Obama has honored several faiths.
“Obviously, the president last week had the opportunity to visit the Israeli embassy, to speak at the Righteous Among the Nations Ceremony, and of course later this week, the president will speak at the National Prayer Breakfast,” Earnest said. “So this fits into the constellation of events that the president is doing to talk about religious liberty, to talk about roll that faith plays in our public debate, I think it will also be an opportunity for the president to talk about the role faith plays even in his own life.”