President Obama used a White House press conference today to issue his most forceful language yet in support of the Ground Zero mosque, making clear that the project should go forward and suggesting that those who oppose it do so out of animus toward Islam.
With respect to the mosque in New York, you know, I think I’ve been pretty clear on my position here. And that is is that this country stands for the proposition that all men and women are created equal, that they have certain inalienable rights. One of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely. And what that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on a site.
Obama continued to frame the issue as whether there is a “right” to build the huge mosque and Islamic center just two blocks from the World Trade Center site. But this time he indicated that opposition to the site involves hostility in general to the concept of freedom of religion and to Islam specifically.
We are not at war against Islam. We’re at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts. And we’ve got to be clear about that.
While there is a certain amount of anti-Islam feeling going on here, mainstream opponents of the site merely feel there is an association with Islam, the religion invoked by the hijackers, that makes the mosque’s presence inappropriate and brings forward unwanted associations for those affected by the tragedy. No one would build a German cultural center next to Auschwitz, and it doesn’t mean they don’t like Germans or that they think we are still at war against Germany.
The president’s thoughtless comments today are an unfortunate attack on good people who are not blaming all of Islam, as he indicated, for the attack. Once again, a man who pledged to be a uniter has stirred further division.