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

    Multimedia US Observes Memorial Day With Wreath-laying, National Concert

    Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora