News / USA

NYC Mosque Controversy Could Affect November Elections

Multimedia

Audio

President Barack Obama has become embroiled in a political controversy involving a mosque and Islamic center being built near the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.  The president recently expressed support for the right of organizers to build the Islamic center in lower Manhattan, and those comments have intensified a national debate over the project that could have an impact on this year's midterm elections.

President Obama's recent comments about the mosque controversy near Ground Zero in New York have elevated the issue into a national political debate, just months before congressional elections in November.

"Ground Zero is indeed hallowed ground.  But let me be clear.  As a citizen and as president, I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country, and that includes the right to build a place of worship in a community center on private property in lower Manhattan," said the president.

The day after those remarks at the White House, Mr. Obama said that although he supports the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near Ground Zero, he would not comment on the wisdom of doing so.

The president's comments angered many who oppose building a mosque so close to the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks.  Among them is former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who is being urged by some conservatives to run for president in 2012.

"This hurts," she said.  "This is a slap to those innocent victims who were murdered that day on 9/11 [September 11, 2001].  How else do you describe it?  He just doesn't get it that this is an insensitive move."

Local issue

The mosque controversy largely was a local issue in New York City before the president weighed in, and now some Republicans hope to make it part of the national debate leading up to the congressional elections in November.

New York Republican Representative Peter King spoke on NBC television's Today program. "Muslims and every other religion have the absolute right [to worship s they see fit], but with rights come responsibilities," he said.  "And I strongly believe the responsible thing to do is not to build the mosque near Ground Zero.  Because no one was disputing the right to do it, it was whether or not they should."

A recent CNN public opinion survey found that 68 percent of those polled oppose the Islamic center being built so close to the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

But President Obama is receiving some credit for standing on principle in defending those who want to build the mosque.

Nihad Awad is the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  He spoke with VOA's Deewa service. "These are principles of America's constitutional rights that should not be tampered with or negotiated or subjected to emotional feelings of those in opposition to the mosque that has been orchestrating this hysterical reaction by some politicians.  The statement by the president was needed and timely," said Awad.

International perspective

But the statement will likely be seen differently internationally than it is at home, says John Farina, an expert on religion at George Mason University in Virginia.

"I think he intended it, from reading the text, to send a message that, 'Look, we really believe in our ideals even when they are inconvenient,' and who could object to that?  That is a wonderful message.  But that is not the way, at least, that Americans are going to hear it," he said.

Political price to pay

Political analysts say that given the public's opposition to the mosque being built so close to Ground Zero, the president and his fellow Democrats could pay a political price in November.

Larry Sabato directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "It was both politically foolish and unnecessary for President Obama to take a stand on what the White House had rightly called a local issue.  This has added an unnecessary burden to the Democratic candidates who are actually on the ballot in November, which, of course, Obama is not," he said.

Many Democrats would prefer not to be drawn into taking a stand on the mosque controversy.  And some disagree with the president on the issue including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who issued a statement saying that those building the Islamic center should look elsewhere.  Reid is involved in a tight re-election battle in his home state of Nevada.

Democrats are already on the defensive because of the weak national economy.  And analyst Sabato says many Democratic House and Senate candidates wish that the president had not spoken out on the mosque issue.

"He is the leader of the [Democratic] party," he said. "He is supposed to be looking out for the welfare of his troops and I don't think he did so in this case.  You know, presidents learn sooner or later that it is okay to duck the occasional issue when you have reason to do so, and he clearly had reason here and the opportunity."

But Sabato notes that the economy will be the paramount election issue in November - trumping the mosque controversy, illegal immigration and a host of other challenges facing the country.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid