25 February 2016
US President Barack Obama visited a mosque in the US for the first time on 3 February 2016. Noted by some as a gesture of religious inclusivism and tolerance, it however raises the question of the actual value of the visit.
Domestic politics in the United States are at an exciting juncture, with the presidential race going on with new debates surrounding foreign policy in the Middle East, the fight against Islamic State, and the resultant refugee crisis. In the midst of all the action, Obama visited a US mosque in an official capacity – the first US president to do so. While his effort is generally well received, it raises questions regarding the timing of the visit, its implications for Muslim Americans, and whether or not it is of any significant value.
Nevertheless, it must be noted that a visit to a mosque by a head of state is more likely to gain attention than a visit to a church or temple. Credit is due to the Obama administration for symbolically supporting Muslim Americans and calling out selective intolerance by the general American public. Nonetheless, the recent mosque visit is unlikely to result in any concrete impact in terms of reducing bigotry against Muslims or preventing further social distancing of the Muslim community – unless it is followed up with more high-level visits and policies.
… Juhi Ahuja is a Research Analyst with the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
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Last updated on 26/02/2016