Obama on the Ground Zero Mosque

I pulled this from Thom Hartmann's blog yesterday:
At an annual dinner in the White House State Dining Room celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, President Obama said,  "As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," weighing in for the first time on a the Cordoba House controversy in New York City. He added, "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," he said. "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable." Mr. Gingrich said that the proposed Cordoba community center would be a symbol of Muslim “triumphalism” and that building it near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks “would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust museum.” CNN news performer Erick Erickson later in twitter compared it to America supporting “human sacrifice” by the Church of Satan. If Republicans don't like separation of Church and State then why don't they simply propose that we throw out the Bill of Rights that our founders fought and died for. On 9/11 there were Muslims, Jews, Christians and atheists killed as well as other religions. It wasn't anymore an attack by Islam, then Timothy McVeigh blowing up the Oklahoma federal Building was an attack by Christianity. It wasn't war, It was a crime, and it's funders and collaborators should have been hunted down and thrown in jail by international police forces. Then we'd have closure instead of endless war. 
Unfortunately, President Obama quickly clarified and blunted his brave remarks.  CNN commentator Hamid Dabashi writes:

Almost immediately his White House aides and then the president seemed to backtrack.
The New York Times reported Friday that the White House had not wanted "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."
Later, on Saturday, the same paper quoted Obama saying, "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding."
White House officials also reportedly said that "Mr. Obama was not trying to promote the project, but rather sought more broadly to make a statement about freedom of religion and American values."
The president thus did not ultimately take a courageous stand at all. Perhaps facing a Muslim crowd in the White House, he was moved to take a principled position, but all it took was perhaps just one quick meeting with his staff after that iftar for him to change his mind, reach for his legalese hat, parse words and say that he did not say what he said.
He had apparently realized that a good majority of Americans, some still traumatized by the horrid events of 9/11, others with unabashed bias against Islam and Muslims (including those promoting Quran burning orgies), are against the mosque.
In failing to uphold his initially courageous stand, the president missed a historic opportunity to continue on his track to mend with the Muslim world in general and with American Muslims in particular over some other Americans' opposition to the mosque. In that one quick backpedal, he made a mockery of his own then historic, now banal speeches in Ankara, Turkey, ("The U.S .... will never be at war with Islam") and then in Cairo, Egypt ("a new beginning").
If his iftar speech was a sign of his idealist persona popping up for a quick show, his retrieval is alas an unfortunate indication of his political cowardice. Of course, it is the right of Muslims to build a mosque on any property they legally own.
That is their First Amendment right, guaranteed by the Constitution, no matter who is in the White House, and it seems that at least in this particular case it no longer matters if Obama is in the White House or Sarah Palin.


WKen said...

Yes, so just to clarify ...

The small government, strict constructionist crowd wants the government to restrict what religions may be practiced where.

The radical left-wing Muslim in the White House (who hates America, remember) is more or less bowing out of the conversation.

Tea Party folks are falling back to arguing that Muslims should be more considerate of their feelings ... though I've yet to come across anyone who knows how many adult book stores are closer to Ground Zero than the proposed community center.

And consideration hasn't exactly been a hallmark of the TP thus far.

I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone.

And I don't mean I'm seeing sparkly vampires.

Ira said...

"The small government, strict constructionist crowd wants the government to restrict what religions may be practiced where."

I totally just stole that.

asthedeer.com said...

I had no objection to the mosque when I first learned of it a few months ago, but lately I've found myself more ambivalent about the project. If I put myself in the shoes of the people building the Cordoba House, and ask, "Would I be doing what they are doing?" the answer is No, I wouldn't. I would build my mosque cultural center elsewhere, even if I had a legal right to build it near ground zero. I would want to be a better neighbor to New Yorkers.

Norm! said...

The president can't win no matter what he does. It would not be appropriate for the president or any government official to support or oppose any religious organization's project.

@asthedeer.com: The folks behind the Park51 project are New Yorkers and were rooted in the neighborhood before 9/11. Building a $100m community center with an interfaith board to a blighted neighborhood seems very neighborly to me.

Let's be honest, this is about blatant religious bigotry. Would there be a similar outcry if a Christian organization proposed a similar project?

Peter J Walker said...

Norm, I agree with your conclusion: religious bigotry. And WKen, I think you're right - Obama is bowing out. And maybe that's not a bad thing. Just disappointing when the extreme Right is so mobilized against... well... equality. Freedom of religion. A free society?

Chris (As the Deer), I can sympathize with your sentiments, just as I can sympathize with victims' families at Ground Zero - though I don't feel those things. It's just interesting that there were Muslim victims in 9/11. It wasn't an attack on Christianity, it was an attack on America.

In my understanding, the Cordoba House, or its parent mosque, is already there, right by Ground Zero. It's been there longer than the World Trade Center was.

There's a Shinto Shrine very near Pearl Harbor. Shintoism didn't attack us in World War II.

Ultimately, the saddest part of this media/political melee is that it undermines even the neo-con Right's attempts to quell radical Islam. If radical, fundamentalist religion is the enemy, then one of the surest ways to fight it is to support, cultivate and promote moderate and progressive forms of that religion.

asthedeer.com said...

Some opposition to the mosque stems from bigotry, but not all. Bigotry doesn't explain opposition to the mosque from Muslims who regard it as a provocation contrary to the Qur'an.

A few years ago I visited the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Beautiful buildings. Afterward I asked our Jewish guide what Jews thought of these Islamic holy sites on Temple Mount. He just snorted at me, as if to say, "I can't begin to tell you how we feel about it."

Ground Zero isn't Temple Mount, but thanks to radical Islamists, it is now a site that stirs deep feelings among Americans. Those feelings lie at the root of the opposition to the mosque, and to dismiss them as bigotry strikes me as shallow thinking. As I have listened to opponents, the issue is appropriateness, not freedom.

In the end, the mosque will be built or not built regardless of what I think about it anyway. The commentary we read and offer about it says more about the commenters than anything. And with that, my commentary endeth!

Peace to you, Peter.

Brent said...

Dabasi is wrong, Timothy McVey was a self proclaimed atheist.

pastormack said...

The Shinto shrine example is silly. Of course Shintoism didn't attack us at Pearl Harbor; the planes had the Rising Sun on them and their pilots wore uniforms. War is not so clear-cut now.

It is of course wrong to say that Islam as a whole attacked us on 9/11, but it is shortsighted and maliciously false to assert that Islam had nothing to do with 9/11. The Crusades would be a better parallel; it was a part of Christianity - not a pretty part, to be certain - but it would be stupid for me to suggest that Christianity had nothing to do with the crusades.

And whatever the source, arguing for sensitivity and decency shouldn't be ridiculous. If the tea-partiers have grown a conscience, let them have their say.

I think it should be an issue for New Yorkers to decide, at any rate. Much of this conversation is dominated by an oversimplified assertion that anyone on the right side of the aisle must be bigoted. That is unfortunate, particularly for those who worship Jesus.

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