But he took the occasion of his White House Ramadan dinner to voice strong approval for the Ground Zero mosque after earlier calling it a local matter.
Obama backs mosque near ground zero, AP, August 13, 2010The question has never been about religious freedom, specifically whether Imam Rauf and his cronies have the right to build a mosque near Ground Zero: they clearly do.
President Barack Obama on Friday forcefully endorsed allowing a mosque near ground zero, saying the countryâ€™s founding principles demanded no less.
â€?As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,â€? Obama said, weighing in for the first time on a controversy that has riven New York City and the nation.
â€?That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,â€? he said. â€?This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.â€?
Obama made the comments at an annual dinner in the White House State Dining Room celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The White House had not previously taken a stand on the mosque, which would be part of a $100 million Islamic center two blocks from where nearly 3,000 people perished when hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Press secretary Robert Gibbs had insisted it was a local matter.
It was already much more than that, sparking debate around the country as top Republicans including Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich announced their opposition. So did the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group.
Obama elevated it to a presidential issue Friday without equivocation.
While insisting that the place where the twin towers once stood was indeed â€?hallowed ground,â€? Obama said that the proper way to honor it was to apply American values.
â€?Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect towards those who are different from us â€” and that way of life, that quintessentially American creed, stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today,â€? he said.
Obama harkened back to earlier times when the building of synagogues or Catholic churches also met with opposition. â€?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,â€? he said. â€?So it must be and will be today.â€?
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who has been a strong supporter of the mosque, welcomed Obamaâ€™s words as a â€?clarion defense of the freedom of religion.â€?
But some Republicans were quick to pounce.
â€?President Obama is wrong,â€? said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. â€?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.â€?
Entering the highly charged election-year debate, Obama surely knew that his words would not only make headlines but be heard by Muslims worldwide. The president has made it a point to reach out to the global Muslim community, and the over 100 guests at Fridayâ€™s dinner included ambassadors and officials from numerous Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Seated around candlelit tables, they listened closely as Obama spoke, then stood and applauded when the president finished his remarks.
While his pronouncement concerning the mosque might find favor in the Muslim world, Obamaâ€™s stance runs counter to the opinions of the majority of Americans, according to polls. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released this week found that nearly 70 percent of Americans opposed the mosque plan while just 29 percent approved. A number of Democratic politicians have shied away from the controversy.
The issue is how a group which claims to have healing and building inter-faith bridges as its goals could possibly be taken seriously when so many people object.
And a big question is where $100 million to build the thing is coming from.
The President is still in dreamland about Islam if he thinks that his personal charm can reverse its long war of 1400 years standing against the West. His Islo-pandering Cairo speech did not turn any jihadists away from killing for Islam, as the Koran dictates. And he does appear concerned with the views of Muslims, while rejecting American opinion, which opposes the structure.
Without question, the man is stunningly anti-American, who only became President by hiding his true nature. His campaign was one big lie. Around the time of his Cairo speech, he called America â€?one of the largest Muslim countries in the worldâ€?. That characterization is inaccurate to the point of stupidity â€” one reasonable estimate puts the US at #34 in Muslim population â€” but may express Obamaâ€™s desire for an Islamic future.
His Iftar speech treated Islam as if it had always been a part of America instead of a recent interloper [text]:
And tonight, we are reminded that Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity. And Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan â€”- making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago. (Applause.)In fact, Thomas Jefferson is better remembered for dispatching the Navy to battle the Islamic Barbary Pirates in the countryâ€™s first anti-terror campaign. But Obama prefers a fantasy history of Muslims in America.
Like so many other immigrants, generations of Muslims came to forge their future here. They became farmers and merchants, worked in mills and factories. They helped lay the railroads. They helped to build America. They founded the first Islamic center in New York City in the 1890s. They built Americaâ€™s first mosque on the prairie of North Dakota. And perhaps the oldest surviving mosque in America â€”- still in use today â€”- is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Watch for yourself to see the Presidentâ€™s remarks: