President Obama weighed in on the controversary continuing in the country over a proposed Islamic community center/mosque to be built just two blocks from Ground Zero. The property is owned by a Muslim Iman and a public utility company. The proposed building would be a thirteen story facility used as an educational community center with a mosque included. The building looks like an ordinary urban building and its outside appearance would not be turned into a traditional looking mosque. Obama made his first remarks on it at the annual White House dinner honoring the Islamic holy days of Ramadan. His spokespeople had been questioned by the press for several days as to his opinion of the proposed project. They have all demurred that Obama wouldn't be giving his opinion on a "local matter". Then, at a Ramandan dinner with an audience of Muslims before him, he deliberately weighed in.
He votes present.
After the headlines hit the presses that Obama voiced his support of the building of the center, he did what is his pattern of behavior. He backtracked. As is his habit, he weighs into an issue of local concern - in this case of concern to the whole country - and then when his opinion creates a backlash from critics, he walks the remarks back. In this case, he claims he meant to say he supports the right of the Islamic community to build an educational center and mosque there, but that he didn't mean it was the right thing for them to do. His point was meant to be the right of freedom of religion of all Americans would allow the center. Gee, thanks, Mr. President. Good thing you are heralded as such a Constitutional scholar so us stupid people out here would know the First Amendment.
From The Washington Times: Speaking to a gathering at the White House Friday evening to observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Obama said that he believes "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country."
"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," he said. "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."
Asked Saturday about the issue during his trip to Florida, Obama said: "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding."
The issue, of course, is not that those opposing the construction so close to Ground Zero are religiously intolerant. The issue is the proxmity to the site. Americans are still grieving the attack to our nation that produced massive death and casualities and took us to war. The perpetrators of the attack were Muslim men. We have heard for several decades that the goal of the radical faction of Islam demands the killing of infidels - those not Muslim in faith. This appears to many as a deliberate finger in the eye of a nation under attack.
Essentially, this is a local issue for the people of New York. Though the terrorist attack was a blow to everyone in our country, it was the people of New York that suffered the greatest. The decision was made by a local governing board in Manhattan to allow the community center/mosque to procede forward. This board heard the objections of many yet voted in the affirmative.
Instead of listening, the President continues to lecture. In this case, the issue isn't religious freedom, it is doing the right thing. Now the President says he will not weigh in on if the construction is the right thing for the Muslim community to do just two blocks from Ground Zero. He weighs in only for political points with the Muslim audience he spoke before at the Ramadan dinner. That is standard procedure for Barack Obama. This is where his complete lack of leadership skills is apparent. This is why he is walking back his remarks now. He wants America to be lectured on a basic tenet of our Bill of Rights - the right of freedom of religion for all - but he really doesn't have the courage to give a complete answer to the question.
The power of the presidency is to explain. The president is not there to lecture us on the Bill of Rights. He had an obligation to state where he stands on the issue and explain why. He didn't do that. He lectured on freedom of religion and then declared he would not say if it is the right thing to do, to build the center there at that location. Those who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack - the worst our nation has experienced - deserve better from the President of the United States.
Obama made the remarks at the Ramadan dinner using a written speech. He knew what the speech delivered and he delivered it. If now the White House mouthpieces have to get out and explain the remarks, Obama lost the point. Obama has proven again that he has no emotional connection with the American people. He offered no empathy to those who lost loved ones. He was, in fact, completely clear in his speech. Everyone in that room came away thinking Obama gave his blessing to the project. The press certainly reported it was his ok he uttered. That is why now the clarification of his remarks is so phony - it is only because of the reaction he received to the speech. It shows again his lack of core principles.
Having the right to religious freedom doesn't make it the right thing to do to built a religious center so close to Ground Zero. There are hundreds of mosques in New York. There is no doubt of the expression of religious freedom in the city. Sensitivity has to come from both sides. This Iman is used by this administration to help create understanding between Islam and other religions. Former President Bush called upon Imam Feisal Rauf to travel to the Middle East and send the message that America is tolerant. The Obama administration is set to send him to Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE. The Iman is restricted from raising money for the Cordoba Initiative. Just last week, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "the Obama administration has no position on Rauf's plans, which he termed a local zoning matter for New York", according to The Washington Post.
This is not a red state/blue state issue, as the President's defenders would have you believe. Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida, Jeff Greene, said "President Obama has this all wrong and I strongly oppose his support for building a mosque near ground zero especially since Islamic terrorists have bragged and celebrated destroying the Twin Towers and killing nearly 3,000 Americans," said Greene. "Freedom of religion might provide the right to build the mosque in the shadow of ground zero, but common sense and respect for those who lost their lives and loved ones gives sensible reason to build the mosque someplace else."
Americans, especially conservative Americans, support religious freedom as well as property rights and right for communities to decide on "zoning", if this is how the President wants to frame the issue. All Americans, however, deserve a President capable of making a principled decision and delivering that decision clearly to us. An American President must do more than vote "present".