(Ft. Lauderdale, FL) 8/18/2010 – Just days after President Obama affirmed the First Amendment’s freedom of religion in relation to the proposed Islamic interfaith community center in lower Manhattan, nearly all major Florida candidates have weighed-in, mainly in opposition to the President.
Although the proposed Park51 project is nowhere near Florida, nor would it have any impact on either the economy, society, or well being of Floridians, most candidates have voiced their position; only one U.S. Senate candidate, Miami’s own Democrat Kendrick Meek, has specifically chosen to focus on Floridian issues.
On Sunday’s Miami-Based “This Week in South Florida” on Miami/Ft. Lauderdale’s ABC affiliate, WPLG, Kendrick Meek and his Democratic challenger, Jeff Greene, both addressed the issue. Meek took the position that he did not want to step in front of the decision makers in New York. He insisted that he is not running for Senator from New York, and that “we must not step in” as a nation on what amounts to a local issue. Greene, however, argued that Ground Zero was absolutely the wrong place to build a mosque. He argued that thousands of people died there, and their families should not have to “look at a mosque right there,” and sends a message to extremists that “we are celebrating.”
GOP/Tea Party Senate candidate Marco Rubio said that it is “divisive and disrespectful to build a mosque next to the site where 3000 innocent people were murdered at the hands of Islamic extremism.”
Florida’s current governor, and independent candidate for the Senate, Charlie Crist, told CNN that building the community center is “the right thing to do.”
GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott also took issue not only with the Park51 project, but also with President Obama’s statement, saying that “this is outrageous”, “[Obama]’s wrong” and that “Muslim fanatics murdered thousands of innocent Americans on 9/11,” calling Obama a “cowardly politician.”
Oddly, the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink agreed with her GOP counterpart, and said in a statement to the St. Petersburg Times that she is opposed to the project and shares the view that the feelings of victims families “must be respected.”
None of the candidates realized, however, that the Park51 project has only one small space designated as a Muslim prayer area (that will be run separately from the rest of the facility), with the rest of the project being an interfaith community center, complete with a performing arts center, fitness and exercise facilities, an art gallery, classroom space, a 500-seat auditorium, a restaurant and culinary school, a library and reading room, and childcare services, all open to the general public.
The candidates also seemed to ignore the sentiments of families of the hundreds of Muslim victims of the attacks, as well as the hundreds of families who support the project as a demonstration of interfaith unity and healing. Not all families of 9/11 victims are opposed to the plan. In an excellent article showcasing two mothers of FDNY firefighters lost on 9/11, one opposing and one supporting the interfaith project, Newsweek’s Lisa Miller showcased the sympathies of families on both sides of the debate, and it should be made clear – not all 9/11 families are against the proposed community center.
Notably, none of the candidates spoke out against discrimination, bigotry, hatred and hate crimes.
For More Information:
Ground Zero Mosque Debate Comes to South Florida
NYC Mosque controversy reaches Florida
Sink bucks Obama on mosque
The Community Center at Park51
War Over Ground Zero