Sunday, March 18, 2018 | ePaper

Pence visits Indonesian mosque in outreach to Muslims

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US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday toured the biggest mosque in Muslim-majority Indonesia during a visit seen as a highly symbolic gesture from an administration that has been accused of stoking Islamophobia.
After kicking off his stop in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country by praising its moderate Islam as "an inspiration", he
visited Istiqlal Mosque, whose vast white dome towers over downtown Jakarta.
He slipped off his shoes before being guided around the mosque, which is also the biggest in Southeast Asia, accompanied by his wife and two daughters in headscarves, as well as Istiqlal's grand imam.
His visit represents the most high-profile outreach to Muslims by the Donald Trump administration since the brash billionaire came to office and echoes a similar trip by Barack and Michelle Obama in 2010.
Since becoming president almost 100 days ago, Trump has hosted leaders from majority-Muslim Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But his administration has also tried to ban travellers from several Muslim-majority nations, citing concerns about terrorism-an effort currently being challenged in US courts.
As a presidential candidate, Trump often appeared to flirt with the far right as he railed against "radical Islamic terrorism".
But Pence struck a starkly different tone during his visit to Indonesia, which has often been praised as a successful Muslim democracy where most practise a moderate form of Islam and coexist peacefully with substantial religious minorities.

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