President Obama visited a mosque today. In a perfect world, no one would care.

President Obama visited a mosque in Baltimore today, and it's big news.

Obama visits a mosque in Malaysia in 2009. Photo by Mandel Ngan/Getty Images.


It's big news because it was the first time the president visited a mosque in the U.S. during his presidency, according to a BBC report.

It's also big news because Obama used the visit to take a stand for religious freedom and show support for a Muslim American community that's been subject to an increasing amount of distrust, violence, and suspicion.

"An attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths," Obama said, per an NBC News report. "We have to be consistent in condemning hateful rhetoric ... none of us can be bystanders to bigotry."

It's pretty cool that the president did this.


American Muslims have had a rough go of it lately, largely owing to the backlash after November's shootings in Paris and December's San Bernardino attacks as well as the ridiculous, bigoted ramblings of a certain presidential candidate. That the president is willing to stand side by side with fellow Americans — against intolerance — in their place of worship matters.

But it's kinda sad that it's still a big deal when a U.S. president visits a mosque.

The Islamic Society of Baltimore, a totally normal American place of worship. Photo by Mandel Ngan/Getty Images.

Obama's mosque visit, understandably, is big national news.

Meanwhile, Obama could basically just waltz into any church or synagogue in America without so much as a single camera flash going off (to the extent that Obama could go anywhere without reporters following him).

Islam is just as "normal" an American religion as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism — or any other faith. Over 3 million Americans are Muslim, and that number is growing.

An American president visiting an American mosque should be a totally boring move. You know who else visited a mosque when he was president?

This guy...

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

...six days after 9/11.

The fact that it's still a big deal for a U.S. president to go to one 15 years later means we still have work to do to ensure Muslim Americans are always included when we say "Americans."

Hopefully Obama's visit will help highlight the obvious: Muslim Americans are American, and Americans should treat Muslim Americans like Americans.

Obama participates in a roundtable at the Islamic Society of Baltimore. Photo by Mandel Ngan/Getty Images.

With any luck, next time, this will be less of a thing.

Canva

As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

Keep Reading Show less