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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid