But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) And 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 that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.
President Barack Obama
August 13, 2010
This statement should not be controversial. President Obama uttered these words on Friday night at the White House Iftar Dinner which breaks the daily fast for Muslims celebrating Ramadan. Naturally, he was addressing the latest controversy manufactured by the right-wing in this country over the construction of an Islamic community center and mosque in a building that once housed a Burlington Coat Factory near the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Opponents of the mosque argue that it is insensitive to have a mosque near the sacred ground of Ground Zero because people calling themselves Muslims carried out the 9/11 attacks.
Now let me say something about the wording of that sentence. I am not very knowledgable about Islam, so I don’t know what The Koran says about judging others. As a Christian, I know that The Bible is very clear that it is not for me to judge whether someone is a Christian or not, so even when people calling themselves Christians display attitudes and carry out acts that are definitely not Christian, I will call them out on the act, but I will not say that they are. That’s the standard I use when discussing my own faith. I will leave it to Muslims to have the theological (does that word apply to non-Christian faiths?) debate about the role of violence in their faith.
Going back to the argument that building a mosque near the sacred ground of Ground Zero is insensitive, or a slap in the face to the victims and their families, or that it is a symbol of the Islamic conquest of Lower Manhattan, I have a few questions.
1) How far does the sacred ground extend from Ground Zero, and what message do the strip clubs and burger stands that exist in the same neighborhood send?
2) Should the mosque in the Pentagon be removed?
3) What excuse do people opposing mosques in other parts of the country use?
The funny thing is that there is not a single relevant argument made by opponents of the mosque. It is being constructed on private property in compliance with local codes and ordinances. Those the only criteria that determines whether or not a house of worship can be constructed in America. The fact that it may be insensitive or blatantly offensive is irrelevant. The simple fact is that this is the United States of America, and it is a cornerstone of our democracy that the government does not tell people how to practice their religion.
If you love America, it is incumbent upon you to defend the right of American Muslims to build their mosque. It really is that simple.