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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs