President Obama stepped into some hot water this past weekend when he decided to make the controversy behind the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City a national issue. Speaking before a group of Muslims at the White House during the month of Ramadan, the President expressed his support for its construction on private property. Many New Yorkers and Americans nationwide feel the addition of the mosque would be insensitive to the victims and families of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The major political mistake behind Obama’s remarks centers around the fact that he (perhaps, inadvertently) inserted this issue into this year’s national campaign. As a result of the President’s assertion, any Democrat running for federal office can now legitimately be asked the question of whether or not he or she supports the construction of a mosque in proximity to where the World Trade Center once stood.
The President tried to qualify his initial comments by saying that he supported the right of the owners of the property to construct a mosque, but not necessarily the wisdom behind such an action. That retraction, on its face, seems like a meager attempt by the White House to eliminate this issue from the national debate altogether. But, unfortunately for them, the damage has already been done.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who faces the toughest reelection fight of his career, denounced the President’s support for the mosque yesterday. Whether or not Reid truly feels the President is mistaken in supporting such an action is irrelevant. What is significantly indicative about his remarks is the fact that he, like many struggling Democrats around the country, wants to distance himself from the growing radical agenda of the current administration.
It is also notable that President Obama is finally making an impassioned plea for the rights of private property owners – as that type of advocacy has not exactly been central to his administration’s agenda thus far. Although most Americans do not dispute the right that these particular property owners currently have to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, a vast majority (nearly two-thirds) still question whether or not that location would be the most appropriate for such a building. After all, it was a band of 19 extremist Muslims that carried out the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which left nearly 3,000 Americans dead.
While the President is correct in saying that Muslims, like Americans of all faiths, have the right to construct a place for worship on property that they have legally acquired, that does not mean that common sense should be overlooked altogether in this particular situation.
Some commentators have likened the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero as being similar to the construction of a Japanese war museum near Pearl Harbor or a German war museum near the sites of the extermination camps in Europe. Although the historical circumstances surrounding these events and locations vary, that does not take away from one underlying common fact: it would simply be insensitive to the victims and their families to construct a horrifying reminder of the vain in which they were ultimately murdered.
Regardless of the President’s personal views on this issue, he would have done both himself and those in his party a great favor by merely remaining mute on this subject. He should have stuck to his original talking point of saying that this was a local matter for local officials to deal with. Although New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg explicitly announced his support for the mosque’s construction as well, the President should have restricted his comments to more national-pressing matters.
Once again we have witnessed this administration’s attempt to be overly-tolerant to the point where they likely offend more than they aim to protect. Muslim-Americans have every right to build a center for worship. That does not mean that they should overlook the significance of such sacred ground though. The 9/11 attacks were carried out in the severely misguided vain of serving their religious beliefs.
While it is unquestionable that the 19 attackers were not representative of mainstream Muslim-Americans, it would say a great deal if such individuals who are more representative of the faith were to exercise discretion in this particular instance. If our highly-sensitive liberal leaders like Obama and Bloomberg will not, then it is incumbent on them to do so.
In a month, the United States will be reminded of the ninth anniversary of these attacks. Hopefully, we can avoid inflicting any more undue pain on the families who were directly affected by such a devastating tragedy.