President Obama on Wednesday will for the first time visit a U.S. mosque, where he is expected to criticize what he sees as anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from Republican White House hopefuls.
Obama is scheduled to speak at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, where he will defend Muslims' right to worship freely while rebutting language used by some GOP presidential candidates, most notably Donald Trump.
Obama has visited mosques in countries such as Indonesia and Egypt, but it's the first time he will visit one on U.S. soil. Muslim-American groups have long urged Obama to deliver his message at an American mosque.
The president is also seeking to enlist Islamic allies in the fight against homegrown extremism.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest laid out some of Obama’s plans at his Tuesday briefing, arguing that working with the American Muslim community was the best way to fight terrorism.
“We will have more success in our efforts to prevent that if we work effectively with the Muslim community to confront that threat, as opposed to branding everybody who attends a mosque as a potential enemy of the United States of America,” Earnest said.
The trip comes seven years into Obama's presidency, during which he has faced false accusations he secretly practices Islam. The president is a Christian.
His trip is also an opportunity for the president to use his bully pulpit to influence the race to succeed, which is officially underway following Monday's Iowa caucuses.
Obama is seeking to tamp down anti-Muslim sentiment that has bubbled up in the aftermath of terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
The events prompted Trump to call for a ban on Muslims traveling to the U.S., and other candidates, such as Ted Cruz, have lashed out against Obama for rebuking inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims.
In visiting a mosque, Obama is taking a page from President George W. Bush, who delivered a speech six days after the 9/11 attacks at the Islamic Center of Washington.
“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” Bush said then. “That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”