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Obama to Visit Mosque in Indonesia

Muslim women perform a morning prayer marking the start of the Islamic feast of Eid al-Fitr at Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta
Muslim women perform a morning prayer marking the start of the Islamic feast of Eid al-Fitr at Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia,Saturday, Oct. 13, 2007. AP Photo/Irwin Fedriansyah

The White House announced today that President Obama will visit the largest mosque in Indonesia, the Istiqlal Mosque, during his trip to the country next month. The visit will take place on November 10th.

The president, who lived in Indonesia for four years as a child, plans to deliver a speech in Jakarta following his visit to the mosque. White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Mr. Obama plans to "talk about some of the themes of democracy and development and our outreach to Muslim communities around the world, while also speaking of Indonesia's pluralism and tolerance as well."

Earnest was asked during a press briefing whether the president feels "he needs to send a stronger message of outreach to the Muslim world or repair some damage" that has come out of the debate over the planned Islamic cultural center near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in Manhattan deemed the "Ground Zero Mosque."

"I would not conflate the two," he responded.

"When we planned to go to Indonesia in March, we planned to go to this same mosque," continued Earnest. "I think that when the president visited Egypt, for instance, he traveled to a mosque -- visited a mosque. When he went to Turkey, he visited a mosque. So I think he's generally -- when he's visited Muslim-majority countries as president, has often visited the most prominent mosques in the sites that he's visiting."

"I think that Indonesia, as the, again, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, sets a very positive example in terms of both its close relationship with the United States, in terms of its religious diversity and in terms of its democracy, but in a Muslim-majority context," he added.

Today's announcement comes one week after a report that the president was likely to skip a visit to India's Golden Temple next month partly due to concerns that images of Mr. Obama wearing the head covering required to visit the site would further the erroneous belief that he is Muslim.

The mosque visit will come as part of a 10-day trip to four Asian countries that begins shortly after the midterm elections. (In addition to India and Indonesia, he will visit South Korea and Japan.) The president was originally scheduled to make the trip in March but it was canceled as Democrats worked to pass the health care reform bill.

Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.
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