Obama OK with Reid’s stance

Aug 17th, 2010 | By politicsnews | Category: Politics

SEATTLE — President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have agreed to disagree on a Muslim group’s controversial plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque a couple of blocks from ground zero in lower Manhattan.

Obama “respects the right of anybody — Democrat, Republican, independent — to disagree with his opinion on this,” White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters Tuesday.

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“Senator Reid is a fiercely independent individual,” Burton said. “It’s one of his strengths as a leader of the Democratic Party. So the president feels completely fine that [they] might disagree.”

Yet Burton declined to say whether the White House perceives Monday’s statement from Reid’s office — that the mosque should be built “someplace else” — as a disagreement between the president and the majority leader.

“It’s a different take on this issue,” Burton said.

Organizers of the Cordoba House Islamic Center say the controversial project will promote a mainstream brand of Islam that emphasizes peace and tolerance. But opponents, including many Republicans and those who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attacks, call it insensitive and offensive to locate a mosque so close to where so many people died.

Last Friday evening, during a White House dinner celebrating the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, Obama said that the owners of the property two blocks north of where the World Trade Center towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, have a constitutional right to build a mosque wherever they want. His statement read like a strong endorsement of the project, which was green-lighted by local officials and is supported by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

But when asked about reaction to his remarks a day later, Obama said he had expressed support for the right of the property owners to build the mosque but didn’t endorse the specific project.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Monday: “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Sen. Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”

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