U.S. president Barack Obama's statements backing the construction of a Muslim mosque near the site of the World Trade Center disaster is being met with outrage from proponents of the planned project.
At a dinner Friday celebrating the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Mr. Obama said Muslims have a right, as a matter of religious freedom, to build a religious center near Ground Zero. "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," he said to applause. Read More...
Some critics wonder why Obama felt the need to interject himself into the mosque controversy in the first place. Others say Obama's statements will increase the opposition to proposed mosques everywhere.
"It will galvanize their desire for resistance to the mosque," said Pastor William Rench of Calvary Baptist Church, next door to another proposed mosque site in Temecula, CA. "It confirms in their minds the idea that Mr. Obama seems to be more accommodating to the Islamic world than he is for the Christian representation in America."
Meanwhile, Republicans seized on Obama's comments as evidence that he is woefully out of touch with the rest of America.
In an interview Sunday, Gary Berntsen, a New York Republican Senate candidate and a former senior Central Intelligence Agency officer, said a mosque near Ground Zero would become a national security risk.
"[Obama] missed the point that people found this offensive because it's very, very close to Ground Zero," he said. "That mosque will become a magnet for militants. They will be drawn there in large numbers, and they will seek to impose themselves on that mosque..." Read More...
While Muslim leaders praised Mr. Obama's support of the proposed NYC mosque, proponents picked up on Obama's lack of sensitivity for the families of the 3,000 victims of September 11.
Rev. Gregory S. Whelton, a pastor at St. John's United Church of Christ in Sheboygan, said he believes Muslims have the right to build mosques anywhere, but he feels Ground Zero should be off limits because of the circumstances of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"To do it in light of what has happened, I'm not sure I would agree with that," he said. "But as far as their right to do it, absolutely."