U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama donned a headscarf on a visit to an mosque in Indonesia on Wednesday, not a requirement for a non-Muslim but a sign of the Obamas’ efforts to show respect for the Islamic world.
Wearing a beige headscarf adorned with gold beads and a flowing chartreuse trouser suit, she toured Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque, Southeast Asia’s largest, while on a short state visit to the world’s most populous Muslim country. (Photo: U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, Grand Imam Ali Mustafa Yaqub and President Barack Obama tour the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta November 10, 2010/Jason Reed)
U.S. President Barack Obama had been expected to visit another major religious site during his Asian tour, the Sikh Golden Temple in India, but media reports said the visit was canceled after aides balked at the idea of the president wearing a scarf or skullcap required at the site.
Barack Obama is a Christian but faces persistent sniping among some members of the U.S. public that he is a Muslim and, the reports said, aides feared pictures of him wearing such headgear could fuel such rumors.
Obama, who is using the Indonesia visit as a platform to reach out to the wider Islamic world by praising Indonesia’s pluralism in a speech on Wednesday, pointed out that the city’s Catholic cathedral was opposite the mosque, which was designed by a Christian architect.