Obama stands up for Ground Zero mosqueAug 14th, 2010 | By politicsnews | Category: Politics
President Barack Obama on Friday endorsed a controversial plan to build a mosque and Islamic center just blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan, despite the strong objections of conservatives, the ADL and those who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks.“Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” Obama said at a White House dinner celebrating the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. “But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. 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.”Having steered clear of the controversy for weeks, Obama took on opposition to the mosque directly — a move that many other Democratic lawmakers had been hesitant to do in the face of highly emotional appeals against its construction.
But polls indicate the issue could be a high-voltage third rail for politicians who support the project: a recent CNN poll found that 68 percent of those surveyed did not approve of building a mosque so close to where the World Trade Center towers fell, killing more than 2,000 people.
As perhaps the White House had anticipated, the reaction from conservatives and at least one 9/11 rescue worker was swift and angry. Most echoed Rick Lazio, the GOP gubernatorial hopeful who helped draw national attention back to the Ground Zero-area mosque by using it against his Democratic rival, Andrew Cuomo,
“President Obama and Attorney General Cuomo still are not listening to New Yorkers,” Lazio said in a statement, suggesting that the backers of the project have obscured their true motives and funding.
There has been “a deliberate attempt to avoid transparency and a deliberate attempt to build the Mosque at this location,” Lazio said. “Why?”
In recent weeks, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had deflected questions on the issue, insisting it is “a matter for New York City and the local community to decide.” But Obama had been criticized for being slow to weigh in on the controversy, especially in light of his past statements in support of religious freedom and tolerance for Muslims in the United States.In his speech Friday, Obama called for sensitivity with respect to developing in lower Manhattan, but cautioned against drawing comparisons between mainstream Islam and the ruthlessly violent ideology of al Queda, which he said is a “gross distortion” of the faith.“Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect to those who are different from us – a way of life that 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 spoke before a group of about 90 attendees, which included Muslim community leaders, ambassadors, dignitaries, and Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), one of two Muslim members of Congress. After his statement, a number of individuals reportedly rushed to the stage to shake Obama’s hands following his unexpectedly direct endorsement of the mosque.