President Obama plans to visit the the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Wednesday, the first time he's visited a mosque in the United States as president. White House officials said in statement that Obama will "reiterate the importance of staying true to [America's] core values—welcoming our fellow Americans, speaking out against bigotry, rejecting indifference, and protecting our nation's tradition of religious freedom."
The president's visit comes at a time when anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States has intensified following terrorist attacks linked to the Islamic State in Paris and xenophobic comments made by state governors and presidential candidates regarding Syrian refugees seeking asylum. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the country.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has been tallying the rise in assaults on Muslims and Muslim institutions, welcomed Obama's decision.
"For a number of years we've been encouraging the president to go to an American mosque," spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said on the group's Facebook page. "With the tremendous rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in our country, we believe that it will send a message of inclusion and mutual respect."
The last president to make such a visit was George W. Bush, who visited the Islamic Society of Washington shortly after the September 11 attacks where he said, "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam." Bush was the first president to visit a domestic mosque since Eisenhower.
In late April, at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a 3,000-person congregation, an anonymous caller threatened to bomb a children's bus. Soon after, another anonymous call threatened to "spill Muslim blood."
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.