The intention of the Muslim community in the U.S. to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center in Manhattan two and a half blocks away from the place, where, until September 11, 2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center were located, enraged the American society.
The issue of the construction of a Muslim mosque in place of the World Trade Center wiped out by the terrorist attacks has already split the American public into two irreconcilable camps. Especially after President Barack Obama spoke in favor of the controversial idea.
As we know, the U.S. President actually supported the proposal to build a mosque in the area of Twin Towers. “As a citizen, and as president, I believe that 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,” Obama said last Friday.
According to the BBC, the President acknowledged the sensitivity of the discussion about the possibility of construction near the memorial, but said: “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”
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But this time, even the closest allies of the current occupant of the White House for the Democratic Party refused to support the position of the President. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said that he was respectful of freedom of religion, but believed that the mosque should be built elsewhere. In this situation, an open talk of the Democrats against the President's position is particularly painful for the White House that continues to stand its ground.
White House representative Bill Burton commented on the position of the head of state saying that the President was committed to express his opinion when it comes to matters related to the constitution. In this case, he decided to say clearly what he thinks about the ways to ensure equal opportunities for people.
Only one of the few supporters of the construction of a mosque, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, identified with the President. "If we shut down — shout down — a mosque and community center because it is two blocks away from the site where freedom was attacked, I think it would be a sad day for America," Bloomberg told reporters Monday.
However, for most Americans, the forthcoming construction of a mosque is not so much a question of compliance with the Constitution as a reason that allows speaking about insulted feelings of relatives of those who perished from the hand of radical Islamists. “The place of explosion is a war memorial, a cemetery. We ask for the manifestations of sensibility,” stated participants of the protest against the construction of a mosque in New York.
Obama objected to his opponents, stressing that, al-Qaida killed more Muslims than people who profess a different religion. “Yet in this situation, President Barack Obama should refrain from any comments,” said Michael Duffy, Washington bureau editor for Time magazine.
“The President chose a terrible time to delve into this issue,” said Duffy. “No matter how hard he tried to provide an objective and cautious comment, he should not have done it in the midst of a serious political campaign. He is not the mayor of New York. The President must be careful, because the position he has chosen is unpopular.”
“We need it now like a hole in the head,” agreed with the journalist one of the advisers of the White House.”At a time when we need to attack highlighting the economic issues, the question [of the mosque] brings us back to the defense,” a source said to The Washington Post.
The Republican Party will try to squeeze out everything it can from the disputes over the mosque to score some points before the upcoming national elections to Congress. And so far they have succeeded.
According to opinion polls, majority of New Yorkers are against the construction of a Muslim cultural center. Over 54% of those who vote for Democrats in the U.S. are also against the construction. 82% of those who have traditionally supported Republicans agree with them. Of those people who are not claiming to be supporters of any party, 70% spoke against the construction of a mosque.
The building located at the site of the planned construction of a mosque belongs to a private businessman Sharif Gamal. Proponents of the idea of a mosque construction say that the project will become a bridge between the West and the Muslim world and transform the attitudes of the Americans toward Islam. The center is planned to fulfill not only religious, but also educational and cultural functions.
However, opponents of the building, including not only relatives of those killed in the attack, but the majority of Americans, as well as movement “Stop Islamization of America” consider the project blasphemy. They argue that the area near the site of the September 11 tragedy is the wrong place for Muslim religious structures. They believe that the surrounding neighborhoods should be declared a special area dedicated to the memory of the victims.
Those close to the presidential administration circles hope that the sponsors of the Muslim cultural center would choose to abandon the project seeing the level of controversy. However, Sharif Gamal, the Executive Director of Soho Properties and owner of the building on the site where the Islamic Cultural Center will be erected, said that “the process continues,” and the plans to build a mosque at the chosen location have not been canceled.
The political scandal surrounding the mosque in Manhattan continues to gain momentum.