President Barack Obama on Friday endorsed a controversial plan to build a mosque and Islamic center just blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan, despite the strong objections of conservatives, the ADL and those who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks.
“Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” Obama said at a White House dinner celebrating the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. “But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone 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.”
Having steered clear of the controversy for weeks, Obama took on opposition to the mosque directly — a move that many other Democratic lawmakers had been hesitant to do in the face of highly emotional appeals against its construction.
But polls indicate the issue could be a high-voltage third rail for politicians who support the project: a recent CNN poll found that 68 percent of those surveyed did not approve of building a mosque so close to where the World Trade Center towers fell, killing more than 2,000 people.
| AP CloseBy ABBY PHILLIP & MAGGIE HABERMAN | 8/13/10 8:37 PM EDT Updated: 8/14/10 12:40 AM EDT