At his news conference today, President Obama was asked “to weigh in on the wisdom of building a mosque a couple of blocks from Ground Zero.” His answer was straightforward and reasoned…and it’s how every political leader should be responding to the overblown, opportunistic ‘Ground Zero mosque’ controversy:
With respect to the mosque in New York, I think I’ve been pretty clear on my position here, and that is, is that this country stands for the proposition that all men and women are created equal; that they have certain inalienable rights — one of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely. And what that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site.
Now, I recognize the extraordinary sensitivities around 9/11. I’ve met with families of 9/11 victims in the past. I can only imagine the continuing pain and anguish and sense of loss that they may go through. And tomorrow we as Americans are going to be joining them in prayer and remembrance. But I go back to what I said earlier: We are not at war against Islam. We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts.
The other reason it’s important for us to remember that is because we’ve got millions of Muslim Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They’re going to school with our kids. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends. They’re our coworkers. And when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?
I’ve got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan in the uniform of the United States armed services. They’re out there putting their lives on the line for us. And we’ve got to make sure that we are crystal-clear for our sakes and their sakes they are Americans and we honor their service. And part of honoring their service is making sure that they understand that we don’t differentiate between them and us. It’s just us.
And that is a principle that I think is going to be very important for us to sustain. And I think tomorrow is an excellent time for us to reflect on that.
Unfortunately, very few national leaders have had the guts or common sense to say something as simple as, “We are not at war with Islam.”
In the Huffington Post today, People For’s President, Michael Keegan, writes about the destructive consequences of the Right’s persistent and subtle campaign against Islam in America. “The campaign against the Park51 community center,” he writes, “has succeeded in taking strains of extremist Islamophobia and making them mainstream.”
Update: Here’s the video of the President’s remarks, via PolitiClearNews