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Obama Backs Mosque Near Ground ZeroObama Backs Mosque Near Ground Zero

By Erica Werner
Associated Press

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama on Friday forcefully endorsed allowing a mosque near ground zero, saying the country’s founding principles demanded no less.

“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” Obama said, weighing in for the first time on a controversy that has riven New York City and the nation.

WATCH Obama’s speech on video

Obama Backs Mosque Near Ground Zero

“That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” he said. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”

Obama made the comments at an annual dinner in the White House State Dining Room celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The White House had not previously taken a stand on the mosque, which would be part of a $100 million Islamic center two blocks from where nearly 3,000 people perished when hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Press secretary Robert Gibbs had insisted it was a local matter.

It was already much more than that, sparking debate around the country as top Republicans including Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich announced their opposition. So did the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group.

Obama elevated it to a presidential issue Friday without equivocation.

While insisting that the place where the twin towers once stood was indeed “hallowed ground,” Obama said that the proper way to honor it was to apply American values.

“Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect towards those who are different from us — and that way of life, that quintessentially American creed, stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today,” he said.

Obama harkened back to earlier times when the building of synagogues or Catholic churches also met with opposition. “But time and again, the American people have demonstrated that we can work through these issues, and stay true to our core values and emerge stronger for it,” he said. “So it must be and will be today.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who has been a strong supporter of the mosque, welcomed Obama’s words as a “clarion defense of the freedom of religion.”

But some Republicans were quick to pounce.

“President Obama is wrong,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. “It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero. While the Muslim community has the right to build the mosque they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much.”

Entering the highly charged election-year debate, Obama surely knew that his words would not only make headlines but be heard by Muslims worldwide. The president has made it a point to reach out to the global Muslim community, and the over 100 guests at Friday’s dinner included ambassadors and officials from numerous Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Seated around candlelit tables, they listened closely as Obama spoke, then stood and applauded when the president finished his remarks.

While his pronouncement concerning the mosque might find favor in the Muslim world, Obama’s stance runs counter to the opinions of the majority of Americans, according to polls. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released this week found that nearly 70 percent of Americans opposed the mosque plan while just 29 percent approved. A number of Democratic politicians have shied away from the controversy.

The group behind the $100 million project, the Cordoba Initiative, describes it as a Muslim-themed community center. Early plans call not only for prayer space but for a swimming pool, culinary school, art studios and other features. Developers envision it as a hub for interfaith interaction, as well as a place for Muslims to bridge some of their faith’s own schisms.

Opponents, including some Sept. 11 victims’ relatives, see the prospect of a mosque so near the destroyed trade center as an insult to the memory of those killed by Islamic terrorists in the 2001 attacks. Some of the Sept. 11 victims’ relatives, however, are in favor.

The mosque has won approval from local planning boards but faces legal challenges, and New York’s Conservative Party is planning a television ad campaign to pressure a New York City utility to use its power to block the project.

Your Comments

  • slowriot

    Does anyone else see this ridiculous fiasco as a covertly staged operation to throw fuel on the fire between the Muslims/Christians. It’s like they’re almost bating some redneck zealot to bomb the place if it actually gets built. I can assure you, the mosque will be built (Washington has to at least pretend to adhere to the constitution). But not before the media can cram it down our throats and enrage both sides to build the pressure. I’m not proposing a conspiracy, that the CIA is orchestrating another false flag maneuver then feed us a scapegoat…but what they do have control of and are successfully accomplishing is setting the stage for someone, either from the Muslim or white/christian side to stop protesting and act. And if I had to put money on it, it won’t be a spree of events, stones being volleyed from both sides of the fence, but something epic. Policy changing. Big boom. An event that’s resulting ripple effect will set the course of our country for the next ten years. 9/11 (w/e you may think of it) and its memory is fading from the public conscience (can the normal person recall what the world was like on September 10th?), I can easily see this as a catalyst that’ll replenish w/e edge Bush and his cronies exploited after that tragic day. And just in time for the grand ole pustules to sweep back into the white house.

    Whether you identify with what I’m saying or not, you can’t deny history inevitably repeats itself…and looking back at the 20thcenture-post9/11 America, were due for a shakeup. I think the war-hawks in DC are getting bored with Iraq/Afghanistan, it’s been 10 years, acquire a new target soon we might.

    …threw in the Yoda syntax to take the edge off that last bit/my all too palpable bias, not trying to get anyone worked up just starting a dialogue.

  • brody

    Erik, the man you are referring to was Dutch not Polish. Your knowledge of history is as bad as your knowledge of 9/11.

    This site really does attract the far right doesn’t it JF Ranger? Maybe that’s because the idea that the US govt murdered 1000s of it’s own citizens really is the preserve of right-wing nutters. Are these really the sort of people you want backing your so-called truth movement, the sort of people you want to assocaite with? You may be clueless when it comes to 9/11 but at least you’re not some prejudiced idiot – like the people against this mosque and, incidentally, most religious people, Muslim or Christian, that i’ve met.

    9/11 was not an inside job, no, not “everyone knows” the US govt set up 9/11 – when you people are not prejudiced you’re just downright ignorant.

    • JF Ranger

      Brody, speaking of knowing history, I suggest you learn about the Gulf of Tonkin incident which was the “official reason” to bring US in to war with Vietnam. Over 58,000 US troops killed, over 150,000 injured and over 1 million dead Vietnamese, all based on a big lie. False flag terrorism from states and countries is an old technique. If you think it is an impossible scenario with 9/11, you are wrong. Research “Operation Northwoods”. Bin Laden is not accused for 9/11 by the FBI for lack for hard evidence. But the worldwide media made it the bogeyman and the “divide and conquer” techniques used against us, the people, are racism and fear. Again. Watch the “New American Century” documentary to see who exactly wanted a “New Pearl Harbor” one year prior to 9/11.

      BTW, we do not associate with the comments of our readers in any way shape or form. You have the right to your opinion and it’s not because it’s been published here that we endorse it.

  • purwanto

    moslem is not the terrorist, may be a little of muslims involved radical activities. but many muslims is peace lover. look….. there are many non muslim people do the uncivilized activities. so read and aunderstand the Holy Al Qur’an and Al Hadist. You will find how beautiful and wonderful the content is. Be muslims you will know what is islam exactly.

    Peace from Indonesia

  • Abdulrahman

    I dont know why a lot of American people still hate the Muslims although it was proven by many 9/11 truth movements that 9/11 wasnt done by radical muslims but by their own government. Islam is innocent from all these actions, and by the way, we have churches is Saudi, usually in compounds where foreigners live, but not in normal streets simply because there arent any Saudi Christians.

  • Raveen

    This article is a mere distraction. Everyone on this site knows that 9/11 was set up by the government. The attacks were blamed on the muslim people. Now they are creating more drama with this news, making everyone still think that muslim terrorists were part of 9/11, and misleading everyone to believe how compassionate they are.

  • Erik Kamfjord

    This is the equivalent to placing a statue of the Polish communist fall guy in front of the Reichstag after the fire. All you have to do if someone asks a difficult question is point: “He / They did it.”

  • pj

    This is bullcrap. I love the way how when muslim’s congregate together and request for something to happen everything is always a YES. There are so many more religions and faiths out there yet none of us get the same sort of respect and acceptance. If you went to a muslim country would YOU be allowed to have a church / temple / other worship houses on their land? chances are NO you wouldn’t be allowed. BULLSHIT

    • JF Ranger

      @pj: “Yes exactly. Why should we as Americans have higher standards of religious liberty than Saudi Arabia? Makes no sense!” – Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, Aug. 10, 2010

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