(FEBRUARY 3, 2016, PHOENIX, AZ): Today, President Obama will visit a U.S. mosque for the first time in his presidency. Unfortunately, rather than a necessary and important step in the right direction, this visit is more of the same from the political establishment: politicians once again granting a platform and recognition to problematic mosques and religious institutions.
Alarmingly, it seems that the mosque the president plans to visit – the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB) – sympathizes with Islamist ideology. The ISB links to radical Islamist cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, its leadership has called homosexuality a “mental disorder,” and has endorsed calls for gays to be “harmed.” The mosque also endorses the gender apartheid bolstered by many mosques around the country, separating men and women during prayer and most functions. Its website is shrouded in a typical Islamist secrecy regarding its history, leadership, affiliations, and ideology. Their denials this week are meaningless in the absence of transparency.
It appears that President Obama’s judgement here is at best compromised, at worst influenced by the same Islamist elements the administration has been empowering since the day he took office. Unfortunately, this mosque visit appears to be more about using Muslims as a political prop for a partisan agenda, giving the appearance of a commitment to diversity. Instead the White House is empowering Islamists who by definition reject almost every measure of intra-faith diversity.
If President Obama wanted to reach the Muslim community in a meaningful way, he would visit the mosque of a Muslim minority sect or group, or a mosque embracing full gender equality. He would further defend and stand with these groups against Islamist attacks.
AIFD is a member organization of the recently launched Muslim Reform Movement a Western coalition of Muslim leaders and organizations dedicated to universal human rights and secular governance. Leaders of the Muslim Reform Movement will be holding a “Pray-in Protest: For women’s rights at mosques” at the Islamic Society of Baltimore during President Obama’s visit. Women will enter the mosque and attempt to pray in congregation with men and will also protest outside, visible to the press. You are welcome to join us.