President Barack Obama's planned visit Wednesday to a mosque in Baltimore will be his first visit to a mosque in the US as president. It comes during the final year of Obama’s time in office, and at a sensitive time. Many Muslims are alarmed by the anti-Muslim rhetoric currently being used by some presidential candidates.
Adila Baig, a member of the Islamic Society of Baltimore where President Obama will visit Wednesday, couldn't be more pleased. “We were so excited to hear first that he was visiting an American mosque and then second that it was our mosque. So it was very exciting for my community.”
The White House has said Obama is going to "celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life."
Baig says she’s hoping his visit “will help with the current climate that’s in the media with ‘islamaphobia.’ ... It’s definitely affecting our community. We don't watch TV around the kids anymore because we don’t want them to hear all that hate that’s in the media.” Especially the news, she says.
“I have a 9-year-old. My older two are teenagers so we can talk to them, but my 9-year-old, we definitely shelter her.”
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) January 31, 2016
Many Americans feel Obama’s visit to an American mosque is long overdue — Baig included. “You know, I'm not attending, but if I was, that’s probably what I would ask him. You know, what took him seven years?”
Of course, Obama has battled accusations that he's a Muslim for years. He's not. But Baig has some concern that the Islamic Society of Baltimore is going to be caught in the middle of a photo op that some of the people still shopping around "the Obama is a Muslim" story are going to try and exploit.
“There’s always people out there willing to exploit this story and bring it again to the forefront, but I hope that they also see the mosque itself. The mosque, the purpose of the mosque is obviously to worship, but it's also to serve the community, whether it’s Muslim or non-Muslim.”
She says she hopes people will see that the Baltimore mosque has a free, full-time medical clinic that’s “open to anybody without insurance ... Muslim and non-Muslim. My mom is a physician there. She volunteers on Sunday and we have a full-time school, we have a Koran academy.”
Seven years after he was elected, Obama will make his first visit to a US mosque next week. Is it too late? https://t.co/GcPlFD0VbW
— Nathan Lean (@nathanlean) January 30, 2016
While Baig won't be attendance when the president visits, she's proud that her young nieces and nephews will be. “That’s a great opportunity for them,” and she hopes the media will show that, “that there’s all these American Muslim children, and they’ll be there, and yes, they’ll be dressed in Islamic attire. But they’re American.”
Years from now, Baig hopes her 9-year old niece will look back proudly on the occasion of being at the mosque for President Obama’s visit. “It will be a huge experience for her, and something she’ll remember all of her life.”