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Breaking His Silence, Obama Defends Mosque Near Ground Zero

| August 14, 2010

barack obama and thomas jefferson east room white house

He's looking at the Jefferson memorial for a reason. (White House photo)

It was not as soaring a speech as that of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, nor was it as timely: President Obama took his time, and in millions of Muslims’ eyes, too much time, finally to address the issue of the planned Islamic center and mosque two blocks from the old World Trade Center site. It was another characteristic silence from a president who, privately from all accounts, left no doubts that he thought opposition to the center was un-American.

But last night, speaking to Muslims at the White House ahead of the annual Ramadan celebration, Obama finally addressed the matter head-on.

“Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” Obama said. “But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. 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. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.

His brief reminder to amnesiac Americans was instructive, too: “Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been 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 — making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago. Like so many other immigrants, generations of Muslims came here to forge their future. They became farmers and merchants, worked in mills and factories, and helped lay the railroads. They helped build America. They founded the first Islamic center in New York City in the 1890s. They built America’s first mosque on the prairie of North Dakota. And perhaps the oldest surviving mosque in America — still in use today — is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.”

Watch the full speech:

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28 Responses for “Breaking His Silence, Obama Defends Mosque Near Ground Zero”

  1. kmedley says:

    Wow! Such a courageous speech delivered during Ramadan to a sympathetic crowd. I’d like to see him give that same speech at a public event held at Ground Zero!

    Once again he is tone deaf. Hopefully those that wish to build this mosque will meet with Governor Patterson and find a more suitable location. The Imam behind this mosque needs to be investigated. He and Bill Ayers have sent money for the flotilla against Israel. He supports the latest flotilla soon to display the name, Audacity of Hope, the title of one of Obama’s books. Our tax dollars will also be paying for this Imam to travel the middle east supposedly to build bridges, while building mosques in foreign lands with US money.

    What else can one expect from a president named Barack Hussein Obama? I can’t wait for 2012!

  2. Barbara Taylor says:

    Allowing the same people that killed 3,000 Americans to build trophy next to ground zero should not be a surprise in the new Politically correct country we live in. Maybe the Community Organizer can bring a few of the Gitmo detainees and the Army Major from Fort Hood to the ground breaking ceremony.
    I am sure there are many of other locations the mosque could have been built. With the summer of recovery working so well for this country, there are plenty of empty building through out NYC that could have been purchased.
    What’s next from Mr. Obama? A Japanese airmen memorial at Pearl Harbor!!!

  3. BW says:

    First of all, I agree with our President 100%. We can not expect to have religious freedom in our country if we choose to only protect that religious freedom for just particular religions. I applaud him for having the courage to voice his opinion and remind us of the gift of freedom we do have. Freedom comes with costs as well. And to have the freedom to have what it is you desire means that which you don’t desire is often present as well.

    There is this notion that Islam caused 9/11. Islam did not cause 9/11, terrorists did. Simply because evil persons use perverted aspects of a religion to misguide others into committing evil acts does not mean the religion itself is evil. If so, all religions would then have to be considered evil. They are not.

  4. Jim Guines says:

    I second that emotion!

  5. Kevin says:

    Expcuse my lack of articulation skill but writing is not my strong point. Having said this…

    It’s not about religious freedom, it about preventing dollars from funding a spawning and dangerous ideology. If they were so interested in outreach with religion, they would include a synagogue in the building to prove their sincerity. Why do they spend 100 million dollars when they could simply be more vocal about their condemnation of the actions of terrorists, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda? Not to generalize too much but how often do we hear about Muslims in mass denounce the actions of the terrorists and religious zealots in their midst? How about never.

    It is a shame that BW can only see the facade and not the structure of what they are creating very methodically, as they have in other countries. Again all we have to do is look to countries abroad to see the damage their liberal sensibilities have produced by allowing the spawning of this parallel religious society. If one is concerned about the need for their religious freedom, will they next be in favor of Sharia Law, as it will certainly be invoked as their next right? Fools! Shame on those who live in such a utopian folly.

  6. Kevin says:

    When a religion or its followers globally demonstrate hatred of others, as Islamic followers have shown, why then should they deserve to have their rights defended on our freedom loving soil? Just google some of the riotous and outrageous demonstrations they hold where speeches are given invoking the killing of Americans, Jews, gays, non-believers, etc.? Look at demonstrations in England and make your own opinion. Picture the US say 20years from now with the proliferation of Islamic rhetoric entrenched in our supposedly homogenous society.

  7. some guy says:

    While I do think Pres. Obama IS doing the right thing by the constitution. I feel it is for the wrong reasons he should have simply said that Government has NO role in the use of private property! Personaly I do think this is the wrong spot for this so called islam religious center thing. islam is no friend of freedom or the U.S.A.

  8. BW says:

    Interesting thoughts Kevin. I do not agree. Take for example the violent actions of many that have been committed in the name of religion through the years, should we then ban all religion? Is Islam being used by some as an ideology in of itself throughout the world? I agree with that. But what you fail to point out is the stereo-typing and persecution that all Muslims have encountered since 9/11, and they are ‘pushing back’. Are some going about it in the wrong way? Yes. Do I think it is the best thing for the Muslim community to build at Ground Zero? Not really. In fact I don’t think any religious group should be there. But the truth is that it is land that can be owned and can be built on. And if you tell one owner they can’t build somewhere because of the type of organization they are, you might as well begin shredding every law of our land and the Constitutions themselves.

    It’s easy for us here to live in the comforts of our society and not fully appreciate life elsewhere in this world. Imagine a day in the life of an Iraqi and the horrors that exist around them everyday. Imagine living in Pakistan. Or imagine being a Muslim living in your community on the day of 9/11. I can tell you that where I lived at the time, it was not easy at all for them. They were forced to live in fear here and for their families overseas. In fact what about all of those that even appeared to others that they might be Muslim. It is truly sad these days at how so many think they ‘know’ and find it so easy to stereo-type and point the finger. But they forget that when they point that finger, 3 are pointing back at them.

    Then there is the actual freedom aspect. It is interesting how so many speak out claiming to want to protect the freedoms afforded to us, but at the same time seek to restrict that which is different from them. Then they hide under the guise of rhetoric such as ‘liberal’. All the while they do not themselves realize that by restriction of the freedoms of one item or another they can not truly expect a free society. You can not have free speech and restrict that speech that disgusts you. You can not have religious freedom of Christianity and restrict Islam. In fact if you actually created the country as the conservative far-right claims is best, we would have no freedom at all.

  9. kmedley says:

    BW – While I respect your opinion, I cannot agree with you.

    This Imam will not denounce Hamas. He says he wants to build bridges, yet non-muslims will not be allowed in this center. He blames the US for 9-11. He finds excuse after excuse for the terrorists, yet not once does he find favor for the country from which he seeks religious tolerance. He encourages Sharia law. Please tell me how that benefits any women in the US and how does that build any bridge? He wants to form an Islamic state here in the US.

    Religious freedom should be defended by all in this country but not at the expense of losing the country. This mosque is a Trojan horse and it does not belong at Ground Zero.

  10. wsh@302msn says:

    look at the way they treat their women, when a women has that time of the month they look at it as being dirty and sinful, we christian americans look at it as a part of life and i for one help my wife in any way i can to make her time through this time of the month as comfortable as possible, does a muslim act this way?

  11. Susanne Jones says:

    I am so proud of the president for standing up for a uniquely American principle. Shame on anyone who tries to prevent the building of anyone’s place or expression of worship. These are the same types of bigoted people who supported the internment of the Japanese, who cheered McCarthyism, who burn books and all of the other social evils in our history. By the way, a mosque has been there for the past 40 years.
    Narrowmindedness is alive and well in the USA.

  12. Rickg says:

    Reading these comments makes me wonder if some of you have ever taken a history or civics lesson. Do any of you remember the classes in which freedom of or from religion was taught? Who cares what is put near ground zero? All I know is that it still remains vacant after we spent Billions on an embassy in Baghdad. Personally I would like to see no religious buildings built anywhere as long as they remain tax exempt.. So most of you may be missing the point. Any religious belief has in its base a segment that believes violence is justified in defense of their beliefs no matter how silly the whole thing is.

  13. Silent says:

    Obama is so out of touch. He does not care what people think. DO NOT FORGET WHAT HAPPENED ON 9/11 .

  14. Barbara Taylor says:

    After reading many of the posts on here, It’s obvious more people are against Christianity than where the mosque is being built.

    Here is a great article from Charles Krauthammer:

    A place is made sacred by a widespread belief that it was visited by the miraculous or the transcendent (Lourdes, the Temple Mount), by the presence there once of great nobility and sacrifice (Gettysburg), or by the blood of martyrs and the indescribable suffering of the innocent (Auschwitz).
    When we speak of Ground Zero as hallowed ground, what we mean is that it belongs to those who suffered and died there — and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized, or misappropriated.
    That’s why Disney’s early ’90s proposal to build an American history theme park near Manassas Battlefield was defeated by a broad coalition fearing vulgarization of the Civil War (and wiser than me; at the time I obtusely saw little harm in the venture). It’s why the commercial viewing tower built right on the border of Gettysburg was taken down by the Park Service. It’s why, while no one objects to Japanese cultural centers, the idea of putting one up at Pearl Harbor would be offensive.
    And why Pope John Paul II ordered the Carmelite nuns to leave the convent they had established at Auschwitz. He was in no way devaluing their heartfelt mission to pray for the souls of the dead. He was teaching them a lesson in respect: This is not your place, it belongs to others. However pure your voice, better to let silence reign.
    Even New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who denounced opponents of the proposed 15-story mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero as tramplers on religious freedom, asked the mosque organizers “to show some special sensitivity to the situation.” Yet, as Rich Lowry pointedly noted, the government has no business telling churches how to conduct their business, shape their message, or show “special sensitivity” to anyone about anything. Bloomberg was thereby inadvertently conceding the claim of those he excoriates for opposing the mosque, namely, that Ground Zero is indeed unlike any other place and, therefore, unique criteria govern what can be done there.
    Bloomberg’s implication is clear: If the proposed mosque were controlled by “insensitive” Islamist radicals either excusing or celebrating 9/11, he would not support its construction.
    But then, why not? By the mayor’s own expansive view of religious freedom, by what right do we dictate the message of any mosque? Moreover, as a practical matter, there’s no guarantee this couldn’t happen in the future. Religious institutions in this country are autonomous. Who is to say that the mosque won’t one day hire an Anwar al-Awlaki — spiritual mentor to the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day bomber, and one-time imam at the Virginia mosque attended by two of the 9/11 terrorists?
    An Awlaki preaching in Virginia is a security problem. An Awlaki preaching at Ground Zero is a sacrilege.

  15. FlaglerLive says:

    I address Krauthammer’s sacrilege here.

  16. Lynn says:

    To Silent- The Constitution does not care what “people think”, nor should the President in standing up for it. If preserving the liberties it provides involves offending people, so be it. It exists in SPITE of what a majority may want.

    Histrionic jingoism may be alive and well, but I’m thankful that at least this president is not using 9/11 as a tool to seize power. We’ve been there, and it hasn’t turned out well.

  17. NortonSmitty says:

    Barbara, first thing, I don’t think The Undertaker has ever written a great column , but that’s just my opinion.

    But let me just focus on the last paragraph:

    “But then, why not? By the mayor’s own expansive view of religious freedom, by what right do we dictate the message of any mosque?” Because we do it every day, that’s why.

    . All religions have their fringe groups, their nutcases that distort the Message. Jews have the Kahane Movement, Hindu’s have Pramod Mutalik-Desai who blew up a courtroom full of Muslims petitioning for more rights in India. Christians have too many to count and every Islamic sect has their own brand of Looneytunes that blow things up to defend the thousands year old beliefs that are under attack.

    By linking the terror attacks to the Mosque to Islam we are playing right into the radicals hands. Because nothing will livey up the crowd and get those donations rolling in like telling them their under attack, whether they’re in Pews or on Prayer Rugs, works every time. Just ask Pat Robertson (War on Christmas anyone?)

    Saying that building a Mosque near the Towers is a defamation of hallowed ground because of the actions of the fringe only will strengthen that fringe. It is the same as saying that we must never have a Christian Church on a Military base because it’s an insult to our brave soldiers. Haven’t you seen the crazy Christians from the Westboro Baptist sect picketing their funerals? Those Christians are all nuts!

    Same thing.

    So to say that we

  18. NortonSmitty says:

    Sorry for the Premature Postulation.

    Our founding fathers gave us religious freedoms to all religions, no means testing, no matter how violent or how downright silly they may be. So to say that we can regulate what is preached in any context is problematic.

    But I can’t wait for the Supreme Court cage match to start.

    “In this corner, the wondrous eight-armed Shiva, destroyer of worlds versus Mary of the Virgin Birth…”

    Let’s wrassle!

  19. over it says:

    Hmmmmm……..this proposed mosque is on private property?? The solution is easy, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been brought up here. Let’s enact legislation that makes it illegal for a Muslim person or organization to buy property within 5 miles of ground zero. That will solve all these problems. And while we are at it, lets make it illegal for Japanese people to buy property within 5 miles of Pearl Harbor. Here’s another one, if you are in any way related to Timothy McVeigh, then it is unlawful for you to buy property within 5 miles of the location of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Or how about this: If you are convicted of a crime against another person, you and your entire family has to move out of town……………….. say 20 miles, or so. We need to protect victims of tragedy. This should do it!

  20. Bob K says:

    Well, it seems the great one has done an about face; he made it clear that he is not supporting the mosque, but simply speaking on protecting freedom of religion. Hmmm….let me interpret the double-speak for you: “PRESENT.”

  21. NortonSmitty says:

    Oh he’s doing well at his real job. After four or eight years of ballessness, we’ll be glad to vote for a real American Hitler ASAP.

  22. some guy says:

    nortonsmitty you are nuts. Yes we have religious freedom but do you realy stand by your words “no matter how violent” so to you it is ok to kill rape destroy in the name of islam? I know that in the world dominant part of islam it is so. But to put itout their as if it is ok in the USA your nuts.

  23. A.B. says:

    Over it: As crazy and far fetched as your ideas seem, it really does appear that THAT is what everyone is thinking. They just don’t want to say it.

    Well, they SAY it,………… just using words that aren’t so “direct”…….

  24. Bob K says:

    There is this notion that Islam caused 9/11. Islam did not cause 9/11, terrorists did. Simply because evil persons use perverted aspects of a religion to misguide others into committing evil acts does not mean the religion itself is evil. If so, all religions would then have to be considered evil. They are not.

    9:5 Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

    Are you calling the Koran “perverted?” Be careful……………!

  25. BW says:

    Bob, are you serious? Exactly what is there to ‘be careful’ of? ‘Perversion’ means distorting the meaning of something.

  26. Bob K says:

    Just a curiosity question, BW: What is your interpretation of the above passage?

  27. wake up america says:

    this person in the white house dose not salute the flag or the unknown soldier. he gives the old crouch salute. he is all for islam not the usa hell he would put one in the white house. whats next flight training school for arabs next to the mosque ?this country is going down hill fast and all of you are just going to let it happen ,.wake up america IS IT IN GOD WE TRUST OR ALLAH!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Paul Kelly says:

    It’s not about “Religious Freedom”! There are countless Mosques in New York City. Placing a Mosque that close to “Ground Zero” is a symbolic victory for the Muslims that directly or indirectly support “Jihad” against the United States. It’s a matter of “class”, and the feelings of the people of New York, that drive this protest. The term “Cordoba” is not lost of those of us that understand the history of Islam! We do not want “Dawa” preached out of this Mosque, as a warning to all “Infidels” that they most convert to Islam or suffer the next step:War! We do not want a 13 story Mosque overlooking our honored ground! Muslim’s always insists on “respect”, and do not tolerate criticism of their religion or culture in anyway! All we ask is that they give us the same respect, and honor our feeling about this sacred ground!

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