News / USA

Obama Speech Does Not End Controversy Over New York Mosque

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +

U.S. President Barack Obama's support for an Islamic center to be built near the scene of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has done little to mollify critics of the plan.  However, it has strengthened the argument that it should be allowed in because of America's tradition of religious freedom.

The proposed cultural center and mosque would be built a few blocks away from Ground Zero in New York city. That's the site of the former World Trade Center, which was destroyed when hijackers from the Muslim militant group al-Qaida crashed passenger planes into the Twin Towers, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Initially, President Obama stayed out of the controversy over the Islamic center. The White House had called it a matter to be decided locally in New York.

But on Friday night,the President finally spoke about it at the White House. And he did so while hosting an Iftar meal that Muslims eat to break the daily Ramadan fast.

"As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," he said. "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."

The president said he understood the emotions triggered by the construction of a mosque near what he called "hallowed ground." But he said al-Qaida does not represent Islam, and America's commitment to religious freedom "must be unshakeable."

The President's comments, however did little to mollify the project's opponents.

Pamela Geller leads a group called "Stop Islamization of America." It has organized protests against the project in lower Manhattan. "He's just dismissing - so callously - the feelings of the 9/11 families and all of us," she said.

She and other opponents argue that planning a mosque near Ground Zero disrespects the memory of Sept. 11 attack victims.

Another prominent opponent of the project is Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. In a written statement, he said "the President caved into political correctness."

Some critics have supported the right to build the center, but worry that extremists will claim it as a victory for their radical brand of Islam.

Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told VOA the president's comments serve to counter that argument.

"In fact, if that center is not built, it's a victory for the terrorists and it's a victory for the extremists, who do not see that Muslim Americans enjoy the rights that every other American enjoys," said Awad.

The plan for the mosque caused little debate until it was criticized by prominent figures including former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. They voiced their opposition following the arrest of a Pakistani-born American who allegedly tried to set off a car bomb in New York's Times Square.

According to a CNN opinion poll taken before the president's speech, 70 percent of Americans oppose the building of a mosque near Ground Zero.


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid