News / USA

Obama Speech Does Not End Controversy Over New York Mosque

Multimedia

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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid