“The writ of our Founders must endure”
Speaking at an Iftar dinner at the White House last night, President Obama expressed strong support for the planned Cordoba House Islamic center and mosque in Lower Manhattan near Ground Zero. He said in part:
Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities – particularly in New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.
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. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.
The full transcript of his remarks is here.
These words come on the heels of outspoken support for Corboda House from diverse members of the faith community, most recently from an interfaith group of more than 40 religious leaders and scholars rebuking those who have stoked fear and bigotry to build opposition to the center, and calling for “a civil dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims committed to a future guided by the principles of compassion, justice and peace.”
The New York Times reported today that “Sharif el-Gamal, the developer on the project, said, ‘We are deeply moved and tremendously grateful for our president’s words.’”
President Obama’s remarks will also be used as fodder for demagogues who exploit fear, bigotry and the tragedy of 9/11 to score political points and demonize Muslims. The White House surely is aware of this, and did the right thing by standing up for the dignity of the Muslim community and the religious liberty of all Americans in the face of political controversy.