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Religious Tolerance logo

Proposed Muslim community center near 9/11's "ground zero"

2010-AUG: President Obama's
comments, & others' reactions.

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President Obama comments:

2010-AUG-13: President Obama supports community center: President Obama strongly supported the right of the owners to construct the Muslim community center in Manhattan. The occasion was a supper meeting on Friday evening to observe the end of that day's fast that is obligatory on all healthy Muslims during the month of Ramadan. This is the holy lunar month recognized by Muslims as the time when God revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad.

He 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. 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 unshakable." 1

He referred to ground zero where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood as "hallowed ground," and said that the best way to honor it was to apply the traditional American value of religious freedom and tolerance.

He referred to earlier times in America when the building of Roman Catholic churches and Jewish synagogues were opposed by many Americans. He did not apparently mention what is perhaps the most serious examples of religiously-motivated mass murder in American history: the slaughter by other Christians of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the 19th century.

President Obama continued:

"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. So it must be and will be today."

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Reactions to President Obama's statement:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg referred to President Obama's remarks as: "a clarion defense of the freedom of religion." He later drew a parallel between Presidents Obama and Washington. He said:

"Two hundred and twenty years ago this week, the Father of Our Country penned his famous letter to the Jewish Community of Newport Rhode Island or, as he called them, 'the Children of the Stock of Abraham.' President Obama's words tonight evoked President Washington's own August reminder that 'all possess alike liberty". 2

Rep. Peter King, (R-NY) said: "President Obama is wrong. It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero."

Rick A. Lazio, (R) a candidate for governor of New York issued a statement stating that President Obama was:

“... not listening to New Yorkers. With over 100 mosques in New York City, this is not an issue of religion, but one of safety and security." 2

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"9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America" reacted negatively to President Obama's remarks on 2010-AUG-14. Their spokesperson Debra Burlingame, whose brother was one of the pilots who died during 9/11, said that he:

"... has abandoned America at the place where America's heart was broken nine years ago, and where her true values were on display for all to see"

"Now this president declares that the victims of 9/11 and their families must bear another burden. We must stand silent at the last place in America where 9/11 is still remembered with reverence or risk being called religious bigots." 3

She described the proposal to build the community center as "... a deliberately provocative act that will precipitate more bloodshed in the name of Allah." 4

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President Obama expands his comments:

2010-AUG-14: In Florida, one day after his speech at the White House dinner, President Obama said:

"I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. ... My intention was simply to let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion."

White House spokesperson Bill Burton said:

"What he said last night, and reaffirmed today, is that if a church, a synagogue or a Hindu temple can be built on a site, you simply cannot deny that right to those who want to build a mosque."

Co-founder and leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud al-Zahar, was interviewed on the Aaron Klein Investigative Radio program on Citadel Broadcasting Corporation's AM radio station in New York City. He said that Muslims "have to build everywhere" so that its followers can pray, just like Christians and Jews build their churches and synagogues.

Rep. Peter King, (R-NY) criticized the president saying: ‘It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero."

Sally Regenhard, whose son was a firefighter who died during 9/11 criticized President Obama "... for a 'gross lack of sensitivity to the 9/11 families and to the people who were lost." 5

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Obama Comes Out in Favor of Allowing Mosque Near Ground Zero," Associated Press, 2010-AUG-13, at:
  2. "Obama slammed, praised for backing NYC mosque," MSNBC, 2010-AUG-14, at:
  3. "9/11 Families Blast Obama's Speech Supporting Ground Zero Mosque," NewsMax, 2010-AUG-14, at:
  4. Carlos Hamann, "Controversy swells as Obama supports Ground Zero mosque," Yahoo News, 2010-AUG-14, at:
  5. "Obama backtracks over Ground Zero mosque after furious 9/11 families label him 'insensitive and uncaring'," Daily Mail, 2010-AUG-17, at:

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2010-JUL-27
Latest update: 2010-AUG-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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