Obama Ground Zero mosque comments spark more political discourse

A mosque in Harlem

President Obama's Ground Zero mosque comments intensified political controversy. Paul Lowry/Flickr photo.

A new round of controversy over the Ground Zero mosque started Friday night when President Obama was asked about the Muslim community center in lower Manhattan. He said Muslims have the same rights as any other religion in the U.S. Right wing Republicans immediately pounced on his comments, vowing to use them against Democrats in the fall midterm elections. The chatter on weekend cable news overheated. Meanwhile, it was business as usual at the bars, strip joints and liquor stores surrounding Ground Zero. And a mosque mot much further from Ground Zero than the proposed Muslim community center conducted worship services.

Ground Zero mosque co-opted by politicians

The Ground Zero mosque was fanned into a political firestorm by the media after comments Obama made during a White House dinner Friday night marking the start of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. ABC News reports that the president spoke in “forceful tones” about the need for American values to win out at the site near Ground Zero. Democrats running in midterm elections quailed at the prospect of defending the president’s statement. In a CNN poll taken last week, 68 percent of respondents said they opposed the plan to build a mosque near Ground Zero. Republicans, well aware of those numbers, reflexively pandered to those voters. Newt Gingrich, as quoted in Sunday’s New York Times, said that Obama was “pandering to radical Islam.”

Obama’s Ground Zero comments in context

The Ground Zero mosque is emerging as a divisive issue in the midterm elections. Republicans plan to use Obama’s support for the Muslim community center to label the president as “out of touch.” But the Washington Post presented Obama’s statement in context with additional comments that most media outlets conveniently omitted:

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. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

Lower Manhattan has many mosques

The Ground Zero mosque, a local issue, is now political fodder for a bogus national referendum. But life goes on near Ground Zero. Indy Posted reports there are many mosques in lower Manhattan. One already exists 2,000 feet from Ground Zero. The Muslim community center would rise 686 feet closer. The New York Daily News reports that people coming to the scene of the worst terrorist attack on American soil can buy porn, bet on horses and take care of all manner of personal business. Two blocks away, the Pussycat Lounge woos patrons with posters of nearly naked women. Next door, the marquee at the Thunder Lingerie and peep show sports an American flag above a window display of sex toys.

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