President Barack Obama has thrown his support behind the controversial plan to build a mosque two blocks away from “Ground Zero” in New York City.
Here’s the video of his remarks so you can judge for yourself before the inevitable politicking on his remarks begins. These are his complete remarks, so you can judge them in a better context then just a short snippet or one taken out of context on an ideological news program:
The full text of his remarks can be found HERE.
Here’s some of the New York Time’s account:
President Obama delivered a strong defense on Friday night of a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, using a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan to proclaim that “as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country.”
After weeks of avoiding the high-profile battle over the center — his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said last week that the president did not want to “get involved in local decision-making” — Mr. Obama stepped squarely into the thorny debate.
“I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” the president said in remarks prepared for the annual White House iftar, the sunset meal breaking the day’s fast.
But, he continued: “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”
In hosting the iftar, Mr. Obama was following a White House tradition that, while sporadic, dates to Thomas Jefferson, who held a sunset dinner for the first Muslim ambassador to the United States. President George W. Bush hosted iftars annually.
Aides to Mr. Obama say privately that he has always felt strongly about the proposed community center and mosque, but the White House did not want to weigh in until local authorities made a decision on the proposal, planned for two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.
Obama’s statement shows once again his willingness to leap into some prevailing controversies. His backing the mosque will most assuredly spark denunciations by his critics and particularly the Twlight Zone fringe still suggesting that he is a) secretly a Muslim b) not born in the U.S. (Those suggestions also warrant this cartoon theme.)
A short cross section of some weblog opinion:
It’s a sad state of national affairs that this simple acknowledgment from Pres. Obama will be controversial. But that’s where we are today.
It should be obvious to any American who knows anything about our founders and our Constitution that the mosque near Ground Zero is in line with the very core of American principles.
We have finally heard the full and definitive take that President Obama has on the outrageous Ground Zero mosque project. He’s all for it.
During Obama’s Ramadan celebration dinner (called an Iftar dinner) Obama addressed the Ground Zero mosque.
Even as Obama claimed that he understood that Ground Zero was “hallowed ground” he went on to say that the Muslims may build their Mosque anywhere they want and we should let them because of it is in keeping with “the writ from our founders.”
C’mon, did anyone expect differently? Would you have expected differently from Bush? He’s playing to a global audience so he took it as an opportunity to reiterate the “Islam vs. radical Islam” distinction. Domestic sensitivities are secondary. Besides, the left has invested so much energy over the past month patting itself on the back for its moral superiority that they’d have wigged out if he had sided against them here. He can deny them a public option, but god help him if he denies them a Teachable Moment at the wingnuts’ expense.
So what’s a poll-readin’ president to do? On the one hand, he’s at a Ramadan dinner and doesn’t want to alienate either the audience or his base. On the other hand, he’s staring at supermajority opposition to the mosque. Hey, I know: How about a statement that mostly dodges the question of whether it should be built in favor of the easier question of whether the owners have the right to build it? Not a Bloombergian lecture, in other words (unlike Bloomberg, Obama’s not a lame duck and thus can’t afford to wag his finger like The Enlightened so enjoy doing), but rather a pat on the back for free exercise and a pat on the back for the mosque’s opponents by acknowledging their “emotions.” He’s basically voting present. But since the media is pro-mosque too and eager to leverage authority on behalf of its position, this’ll be spun tomorrow as some sort of stirring statement in defense of the right to … alienate everyone around you, I guess, in the ostensible interests of “dialogue.”
And this is a rare instance in which I find myself in agreement with the President…
I’ve often said that I’m most proud of our nation when we’re allowing freedom for people whose ideas and actions we don’t necessarily like. For instance, though I find the group to be morally and politically repugnant, I feel a sense of pride that the Ku Klux Klan is allowed free speech and the ability to protest.
And though I don’t think that Islam, separate from it’s more radical and violent strains, is like the Klan I think the example holds true with the ground zero mosque. I don’t like the idea of a mosque at ground zero. I think those building it are motivated by a desire to stick their collective thumbs in the eye of the American public. I fail to see how it’s going to foster better relations between the American public and Muslims.
But that being said, how can we say that we are a country of tolerance and freedom (including religions freedom) if we do not allow the mosque to be built despite how we may feel about those building it?
Just when you think things couldn’t get more preposterous, our beloved President unloads another pile of crack-pottery…
3,000 souls were murdered by Islamists in the name of their political religion on 11 September 2001. Tens of thousands of innocents have perished since then — killed in beheadings, stonings, executions, hangings, beatings, floggings, suicide bombings and more.
All were murdered in the name of a political system that adopts the guise of a religion.
But as with health care and the economy, President Obama doesn’t care what you or I think. Facts, logic, reason and history play no part in his “decision-making”. Only ideology matters with this particular breed of hard-left Democrats.
From the moment he entered office, Obama has made a commitment to engaging in a more positive relationship with the Muslim world. During his inaugural address, Obama said, “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” And later, in a speech in Cairo, Egypt, Obama added, “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.” But the right-wing antics against the construction of mosques, the disturbing instances of hate crimes against Muslims, and the rising tide of Islamophobia has served to frustrate the administration’s commitment to engage with the Muslim world.
So, Obama’s strenuous defense of the “Ground Zero mosque” tonight is significant not just in bolstering the credibility of his message to the Muslim world, but it also engages him directly in the political fight against far right extremists here at home who wish to erode the American values at stake in the fight over the mosque. Obama emphasized tonight that “our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect to those who are different from us” is an important marker of the difference between us and the “nihilism” of terrorists. In other words, using language that perhaps Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and their fellow xenophobic cynics might be more comfortable with — the question is simple: Are you with us or against us?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.