Why Obama Needs to Visit a Mosque in the U.S.

Data explains it all.
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Data explains it all.

Tomorrow, Barack Obama is expected to visit a United States mosque for the first time in his presidency. The visit, according to White House officials, is intended to serve as a rebuke of anti-Muslim sentiment, and a defense of religious freedom, especially in the face of such vitriolic language from the Republican presidential candidates.

"We have seen an alarming willingness on the part of some Republicans to try to marginalize law-abiding, patriotic Muslim Americans, and it is offensive," said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. "I think the president is looking forward to the opportunity to make that point."

Obama will speak Thursday morning at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque in Maryland.

His visit comes not a moment too soon. A 2010 Gallup poll reported that 43 percent of Americans admit feeling at least "a little" prejudice against Muslims. By comparison, that's twice the number who report prejudice against Christians (18 percent), Jews (15 percent), and Buddhists (14 percent). According to another Gallup poll, 52 percent of American Muslims reported feeling the Western countries as a whole don't respect their societies.

A separate report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, found an uptick in attacks on mosques and Muslim individuals following last year's Paris attacks and shooting in San Bernardino, California (which, ironically, is exactly what the perpetrators of those crimes wanted).

To be sure, anti-Muslim crime makes up 15 percent of all religious hate crimes in the U.S., according to the 2014 report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Also terrifying, anti-Jewish hate crime constitutes an overwhelming 60 percent.)

Perhaps Obama's visit tomorrow can help quell some of America's budding religious bigotry, although that seems sadly unlikely with people like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz still dominating headlines.