President Barack Obama finally offered his voice in the national debate… I mean debacle over the “Ground Zero Mosque.” Of course, as president of the United States, it was necessary for him to join the conversation regarding a matter with national implications. However, he stepped onto the stage awkwardly, verbally tripped up in front of the national audience, and now has been attempting to clarify his position. “Like a politician, for the very first time….”
During the annual White House iftar dinner, a presidential-sponsored Ramadan gathering for Muslim leaders and community figures, Obama declared that “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.” That is absolutely true, and I don’t know of any sentient American with a proper mind who disagrees with that notion. I am not aware of wide-scale political movement in the United States to disenfranchise Muslims of their civil liberties, prohibit the practice of Islam, and persecute them accordingly. The following day, the president must have been inwardly terrified by his position, stating that “I was not commenting, I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there.”
This places him at odds, yet again, with a substantive majority of Americans, and even New Yorkers. A CNN poll reported that 68% of Americans oppose the location of the Islamic Center near the 9/11 terror attack site. Even a Fox News poll found that while 64% of those polled are against the Cordoba House’s plans, 61% believe that the group has a legal right to build on those two acres. Between 52-61% of New Yorkers (state and city) vote against this project.
The issue at hand, for the vast majority of Americans opposed to this mosque/Islamic center, has nothing to do with the fact that Muslims want to construct a house of worship. The opposition is grounded solely in the location of the Cordoba Initiative’s project. Even the Anti-Defamation League, a liberal Jewish civil right organization, has urged the project to be moved elsewhere. I believe that ADL Chairman Abraham Foxman summarized the feelings of the American people best when he stated that this particular location was “insensitive and counterproductive to reconciliation.” Americans still adhere to their belief in protection of private property rights and respect for religious liberty. But they also believe that some actions are wrong.
Yes, there are far-right radicals who oppose the construction of mosques, whether they live in Lower Manhattan or Murfreesboro, Tennessee. These extremists will denounce Muslims, because they fear that Islam is attempting to “conquer America,” when in fact the vast majority of Muslims immigrate here simply to attain a better life.
To be fair, and for purposes of clarity, two facts must be stated.
1. The structure is not solely a mosque. It is contained within a wider Islamic center intended for social outreach.
2. It would not be directly located at Ground Zero, but two blocks from the site of the terror attacks.