News / USA

Obama's Mosque Comments Fuel Controversy

U.S. President Barack Obama has ignited a political controversy with his comments about the rights of American Muslims to build an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero, the site of the 2001 terror attacks on New York City.  The administration had claimed the issue was local, until the President made his remarks at the annual White House Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan. 

President Obama is crisscrossing the nation, speaking about the economy, campaigning for Democrats ahead of November's congressional elections.  Political experts say he needs the diversion to steer public attention away from his recent comments.  

What Obama said

On August 13, the President spoke about the proposal to build a mosque two blocks from the site of the September 11 terror attacks.

"Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," President Obama said.  "And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan."

And, that set off a political firestorm.

A CNN poll finds that nearly 70 percent of Americans oppose the mosque, even though the project was approved by New York City authorities.  



Criticism

Republicans have criticized President Obama as disconnected from Americans.

And the Senate's top Democrat Harry Reid, in a close campaign for re-election, spoke out against it.

"It's very obvious that the mosque should be built someplace else," Reid said.

At the heart of the matter is the first amendment to the U.S. constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.  But Americans have become sensitive when that issue intersects with the tragedy of September 11.

Analysis

John Farina wrote a book of spiritual reflections a month after the bombings.  He says the President's intent on Friday was to highlight religious freedom.

"We really believe in our ideals, even when they are inconvenient. and who could object to that? That's a wonderful message. That's not the way, at least, Americans are going to hear it," Farina said.

On Tuesday, a group of interfaith leaders spoke out about the controversy.

"Religious freedom exists in part to protect the rights of the minority from the whim of the majority," noted Arielle Gingold, reading a pre-released statement on behalf of Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance. "In fact it would not be a stretch of the imagination to say that if the founding fathers have relied on polling data, the first amendment might not exist at all."

Steven Taylor who teaches government at American University in Washington DC, predicts that President Obama's comments will be used against Democrats in campaign commercials.

"A good segment of the public doesn't make the distinction between moderate Islam/ al-Qaida, or those who don't belong to al-Qaida," noted Taylor.  "They don't see it that way. All they see is that Muslims bombed the world trade center.  Muslims killed three thousand people and the president is supporting the rights of these Muslims to do that."

Taylor says Mr. Obama might have been reaching for a better relationship with Muslims in other countries.  But, it might come at the expense of Americans who would vote for him.  

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid