Obama strongly endorses Ground Zero mosque
On Friday, President Obama strongly defended recently the right of Muslims to build the Ground Zero mosque in his speech at a dinner held in the White House to celebrate Ramadan.
Obama said that Muslims have the same rights as all other religions in the country to practice their beliefs, and noted that Al Queda is not equal to Islamism, adding that Al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people from any other religion, including innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11,” The New York Times said.
On Saturday, Obama clarified his remarks.
“My intention was to simply let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country, we treat everybody equally in accordance with the law. Regardless of race. Regardless of religion. I was not commenting on and will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country’s about and I think it’s very important that as difficult as some of these issues are, we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about,” Obama said to CNN.
For quite some time the White House refrained from getting involved in the issue of the $100 million Islamic center, which would be located two blocks from where 3,000 people died when terrorists hijacked two planes and slammed them into the Twin Towers nine years before, the AP said.
Obama said that while the land is “hallowed ground,” he called for tolerance and respect for those who have different beliefs and ways of life. He noted that the American creed starkly contrasts the nihilism of those who perpetrated the 9/11 attack, the AP said.
Obama also noted that in the past there was opposition to building synagogues and Catholic churches, “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,” the AP said.
Republicans however strongly opposed its construction including Sarah Palin who called it “an unnecessary provocation,” and Newt Gingrich. The Jewish civil rights group, the Anti-Defamation League also expressed opposition to the mosque.
Ali Abunimah, an Arab-American journalist and author, said the president’s election promise of a new beginning in relation with Muslims has since left many Muslims disappointed noting, “There has been no follow-through; Guantánamo is still open and so forth, so all you have left for him to show is in the symbolic field,” The New York Times said.
Republican Peter King of New York said, “President Obama is wrong. 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,” the AP said.
Obama’s pronouncement also runs counter to how most Americans feel according to polls. A CNN/Opinion Research poll that came out this week showed some 70 percent of Americans oppose the mosque, while 29 percent approve. Many democrats have avoided speaking on the controversial issue, the AP said.
The annual traditional White House iftar is a sunset meal after the fast is broken. Thomas Jefferson first held the dinner for the U.S. Muslim Ambassador. President George W. Bush hosted iftars annually, The New York Times said.