As Obama Plans to Visit Indonesian Mosque, American Muslims Still Waiting for Him to Visit One at Home

By Penny Starr | November 1, 2010 | 4:47 AM EDT

President Obama removes his shoes during a visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on April 7, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

( – President Barack Obama’s trip to Indonesia will include a visit on Nov. 10 to the country’s largest mosque in Jakarta. But could not confirm from press reports, Islamic groups or from the White House that the president has visited a mosque in the United States.

“It would be very good for the president to actually visit an American mosque,” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told “That would actually send a strong message of support for the Muslim American community.

Ibrahim Ramey, director of the civil and human right division of the American Muslim Society, said the president might be uncomfortable visiting an American mosque because it could add to speculation that Obama is a Muslim, but that it should not stop him from reaching out to American Muslims.

“We believe that given the social and interfaith mosaic of the United States and the fact that Muslims are part of this mosaic, that we would encourage him to not only visit a mosque but also we would encourage him to feel comfortable having dialogue with Muslim leaders in a place of worship that is Islamic,” Ramey said. “We think that that would be no more unusual than visiting a Baptist Church or visiting a synagogue.”

Both Hooper and Ramey cited Obama’s connection to Indonesia – the homeland of his Muslim step-father and a place where he lived for four years as a child – as good reasons for him to visit the mosque.

The Jakarta Globe reported in an online article Saturday that Ben Rhodes, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, said Obama would arrive in Indonesia on Nov. 9 and give a speech that will focus on “outreach to Muslim communities around the world, while also speaking of Indonesia’s pluralism and tolerance.”

On Nov. 10, Obama will visit the largest mosque in the country that has the world’s biggest Muslim population, the paper reported.

But the hearts and minds of many Muslims have not been changed, according to one expert interviewed by the Jakarta Globe.

“The Islamic world’s perception toward the United States has not changed yet,” said Bantarto Bandoro, an international affairs expert from the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That is why he is using the visit to Indonesia to once again send a message to the Islamic world,” he said. “He wants to correct the view that the United States is waging war against Islam.”

Hooper predicted that the only controversy about Obama visiting the Indonesian mosque would come from “right wing” critics of Obama. Without Obama’s Muslim ties, the visit would be routine for any other U.S. president, he added. 

“I don’t think visiting a mosque in Indonesia sends any particular message other than being a good guest,” said Hooper. “But visiting an American mosque would send a very positive message of support to the American Muslim community at a time when it’s under vicious attack by a growing number of anti-Muslim bigots in our society.”

When Obama visited Turkey in April 2009, he visited Istanbul’s landmark Blue Mosque, accompanied by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.