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August 14th, 2010
03:04 PM ET

Obama on Islamic Center: not commenting on 'wisdom of making a decision'

CNN's Ed Henry talked exclusively to President Barack Obama today about his remarks last night in support of the controversial proposal to build an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan:

Ed Henry: What do you think about the reaction to your speech about the mosque?

President Obama: My intention was to simply let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country we treat everybody equally, in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion. I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there.

I was commenting very specificly on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country's about. And I think its very important that as difficult as some of these issues are, that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.

Read CNN's story on his speech supporting the Islamic center near ground zero

Read Obama's speech

Read the Belief Blog's complete coverage of the Islamic center controversy

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Barack Obama • Islam • Politics

soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. Mare

    Heres my question..Why are the Muslims pushing so hard to build in this particular location when they know that most Americans are against it? I find them to be very insensitive. I'm also disappointed in the presidents take on this.

    August 14, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
    • Chris

      Hey Mare, the Muslims that I have heard pushing so hard for this are those that had loved ones die on 9/11. Do only the Christian victims of the attack deserve a memorial?

      August 14, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
    • tourpro

      Insensitive??? Would it be insensitive to build a church near Jerusalem? Of course not. The murderers responsible for 9/11 no more represent Islam than the genocidal crusaders who slaughtered the entire populace of Jerusalem represented Christianity. The only group they both truly represent are homicidal maniacs. If we really want to keep the group really responsible for the horrors of 9/11 away from Ground Zero then we don't need to keep mosques away from there-–we need to keep mental institutions away from there.

      August 14, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
    • Matt J.

      How hard is "so hard"? Whose word are you taking for this, that they are "pushing so hard"? Have you looked at NYC real estate lately? There probably IS no other place to build it.

      August 16, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  2. Dev

    I think building a mosque near ground zero is in bad taste. However, I have to agree with President Obama. If we put a stop to this, it would hypocrisy and we'd be going against our constitution. Christians also need to quit using the big brush when it comes to painting all muslims as extremists, the truth is most are not. There are over a billion muslims in this world and if they were truly all violent extremises, this world would be one huge open sore.

    August 14, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  3. Philip

    Now is the time, for all religions to come together and build an Inter-Denominational place of worship near the grounds of the World Trade Center. I can envision a place where Catholics, Jews, Episcopalians, Protestants, Baptists, Methodists, Muslims, and Buddhists can all feel welcome to pray and worship in lower Manhattan! This will make a statement about the American Dream. As a former New Yorker, I would be proud to see and visit such a center where Americans can show the world their tolerance for other religions.

    After all, people of all religions died on 9/11 near GroundZero. Such a religious center would be a source of healing, tolerance, understanding, forgiveness, and hope for the future.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
    • B Fair

      Now that makes too much sense, could not work with our religous right

      August 14, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Philip,
      You mentioned only 8 of many thousands of denominations.......how do you accomodate everyone?

      August 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
    • Matt J.

      But even the belief that inter-denominational things are a good thing, a constructive step on the way to religious tolerance, is itself a religious belief. A belief NOT shared by all religions. Rather, it is popular mainly among Protestants and that only within the last 50 years or so.

      August 16, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  4. LTF1

    Of course folks have the right to build their mosque but that is not the same thing as it being a good idea. The president is backtracking here. Last night he endorsed building the thing and today recognizes that politically that was a mistake. Furthermore, that all religions are treated equally under the constitution does not mean that all Americans have to in their opinions equally respect all religions. People have just as much right to protest against the construction of this building as the promoters have the right to build it.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  5. DL13

    NEWSFLASH: In outreach to Jihadists, President OK's plan to erect Al Queda Victory Monument near Ground Zero....

    August 14, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
    • FU_DL13

      NEWSFLASH: You're and idiot...

      August 15, 2010 at 12:04 am |
    • Matt J.

      Well, it was a little funny, but very wrong. And that in so many ways!

      August 16, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  6. Mohammed

    Americans have the right to free speech... but not to force someone to listen.
    Americans have the right to practice their religious beliefs... but not to force others to accommodate them.
    Americans have the right to believe what they want... but not the right to believe it is OK to kill others if their religion requires or condones it.

    You can make the argument that Islam is peaceful... but the evidence does not support that. If this were true, it would be a simple matter for the Muslim community to make it clear that terrorism is a sin. Instead, some Muslims praise terrorism, some comdemn it but most are silent. We all know why this is. To deny this is to make an argument on selective truths. Those that do this are not interested in truth, they are interested in an agenda.

    It is American to treat everyone equal. I think that ALL religious groups with a violent component that the majority of that religion does not actively and enthusiastically rebuke should not be allowed to build anything anywhere. Equal treatment under the law.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
    • Carlos

      I agree. Our growth as a society is in inverse relation to the growth of organized religion.

      August 14, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  7. ashoke ray

    Islam teaches violence and hatres towards other religions. As such every Muslim must prove otherwuse. A mosque cannot be built at WTC.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
    • Hannah Gillan

      That is an extremely absurd statement to make. Islam DOES NOT teach violence and hatred towards other religions! In fact Islam is a religion that promotes peace. It angers me that Islam has been tainted by fundamentalists. No one remembers all the great things muslims did for the world hundreds of years ago as well as in the 21st century.

      August 14, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  8. msk

    I JUST REALIZED THAT WE SHOULD TREAT THIS AS INSURANCE AGAINST ANOTHER ATTACK ON THE WTC; NOBODY WOULD RISK DAMAGING THE ISLAMIC CENTER BY DOING SUCH A THING. AS SUCH, I NOW EMBRACE IT.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • msmith

      Insurance? Really? Let's do the math. One mosque fits 400-500 believers versus a tower holding 2,000 people. That's how you value 2,000 or more American lives????

      August 14, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
    • Matt J.

      You forget: Osama Bin Laden and his ilk really do not care how many of their own fellow Muslims they kill in their attacks. They breezily dismiss those casualties in two ways: either those Muslims are collaborators, in which case they are hated even more than infidels, or, if they really are innocent of collaboration, then they are fellow martyrs - even though they were unwilling.

      Yes, it is irrational, but that's Islam for you! The religion which enshrines in its own core a fundamental confusion between zeal and fanaticism.

      August 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  9. Fellows100

    Does Obama ever pull for Americans?

    August 14, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
    • tourpro

      Most of the Muslims who will be attending the mosque are American, same as you.

      August 14, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
    • Matt J.

      He does it all the time. You just don't notice. Are you wasting too much time watching Faux News?

      August 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  10. Rob

    The idea of building a mosque so close to the place where terrrorist, in the name of Islam and Jihadists, attacked the principles for which this country stands in not only disgraceful, but also an insult to ALL who lost loved ones in that attack. As for our President stating we have the right to religious freedom, what about Christianity, why is the government so intent on removing it from all public sites. Do Christians not have the same rights?
    Back to the question of what our President says. Although he did not give "his opinion" he did much worse by endorsing the right to build this at this location. He has, in my opinion, played right into the extremeist hands, not those muslims who want to worship in peace, by giving them a mosque close to where they attacked freedom. As a soon to be retired military service member, this angers me because it is a slap in the face to all who have died as a result of the attack on our country! Our President should have stated the right to build exists, but it should not occur at this location. Speaking of location, why did the group building the mosque refuse the offer to build it on land that was to be given to them by the state if this is only about religious freedom and not about gloating?

    August 14, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
    • mrc

      How can a right exist, but not at this site?
      The president, rightfully, stated that all beliefs have certain rights under our constitution. His NOT commenting on the suitibility of building at this particular site is a silence that speaks louder than any statement.....that is his public way of indirectly letting the mosque supporters know that their ideas is insensitive, boneheaded, etc. to put it mildly.

      A local commentator here in Wyoming gave the analogy when the Carmilite nuns wished to build a convent adjacent to Aschwitz over Jewish protests, the Pope, eventually, ordered the convent moved so as not to inflame feelings. (of course the Polish nation rebutted that some 150 thousands Polish Catholics were murdered at Aschwitz along with the 1.1 million Jews, and tens of thousands of other victims)

      August 14, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
  11. IEP

    I agree with my President...Last nite I cried as I watched a family tracing what had happened to their family in Germany. The whole town of Jewish ppl were marched to the center of town. Then lead family by family to a ice pit and shot to death on the edge that pit. They were then burned by the germans, while the rest of the village suffered the agony of the cries of they that did'nt die a quick death. Please remember that one bad person should not taint all. If we don't allow freedom for all, have we learned anything from past history? Or perhaps The Church near ground zero should also be moved. or perhaps we should ban all churches within the confines of a town, city or village. Please lets all try to live together in understanding.

    August 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
  12. Anthony Russo

    President Obama ended his speech by saying-"...that we do unto others as we would have them do to us." Does he mean that a Christian zealot should take flying lessons over the mosque once it is built?

    How would Obama feel about a Japanese War Memorial at Pearl Harbor? Just because something is not against the law doesn't make it right.

    August 14, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  13. usarmymed

    I agree 110% with the President. I could care less for the wisdom in building the mosque, but it IS their constitutional right to do it.

    August 14, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  14. Atea Cloune

    How ironically moronic. The "constitutionalists" want to ignore the Freedom of Religion tennant in THE constitution.

    August 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  15. Bob Peckham

    I don't think this is a question of treating people equally. Are other religious cultures being represented this way? Which Islamic culture is being represented? Will this anger other Muslims? What would be truly in keeping with American culture would be to steer clear of representing any religious culture. In spite of the profound Christianity of a number of our founding fathers, they were able to bring about in American culture where religions were tolerated, not touted, and where faith, as a private conversation between people and their god was a fine thing. If we are to discourage religious extremism, we need to seer clear of the political correctness of highlighting or the inhumanity of persecuting any religion. Yes to the wisdom and courage of the enlightenment; no to the center.

    August 14, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
    • reACTIONarry

      Of course it is a matter of treating people equally – under the Constitution, first amendment, religious freedom! If a Christian organization wanted to build a community center there, no one would complain, let alone try to get the government on them. The Constitution gives them the right to build their mosque anywhere they want.

      August 14, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  16. Don

    9-11 could never have happened if not for Islam, and its doctrine of Jihad, and its false promise of an impossible afterlife, without which none of those gullible lunatics could have been persuaded to carry out such an insane and violent act. It was an attack on us all from the "religion of peace" that decides to attack when they don’t like the way people do things.
    Any religion that endorses violence is incapable of delivering spiritual enlightenment. How obvious does that have to be? Islam has no right to even call itself a religion. Without the shield of religion to hide behind, Islam would be banned in the civilized world as a political ideology of hate, and we have no more obligation to make allowances for it any more than we do for Nazi-ism. It is a bigger threat to the free world than Nazi-ism ever was. Both are totalitarian and both divide the world unnecessarily into "us" and "them", the “pure” and the “impure”, and both make no secret of their desire to exterminate the Jews. But we were all more or less on the same side against the Nazis, whereas the iIslamo-Nazis have plenty of friends in the west who ought to know better. American politicians are starting to make the same kind of noises about diversity that have been going on through the islamization of Europe.
    America has been made great by its citizens respecting the values and individual liberties that make America what is. Islam rejects these values. Islam despises what America is, it rejects everything America stands for, including freedom and diversity, and any muslim who denies that is a liar.
    The organization behind this Mosque construction is called the “Cordoba Initiative” and the building is to be called the Cordoba house. This is because Cordoba is the site of the first great mosque at the start of and as a symbol of their conquest of Spain. The ground zero Mosque is intended to serve the same purpose in America.
    Building Mosques on conquered sacred ground is what Islam has always done to assert its supremacy, and that is what is proposed here. Of course they know how offensive it is, how insulting it is. Are you kidding? Why do you think they chose a site as close as possible to ground zero? Or do you think that that was just an accident? They also know that once it is built, it will be there forever, as a permanent affront to all Americans, gloating in triumph, and a major bridge-head in the ongoing stealth Jihad. That’s how the muslim world will see it, and how they will be encouraged to see it, and to be fair to them, that is exactly what it will be, confirming what they have always suspected, that America is a soft country, a decadent country, crippled by political correctness, confused and guilt-ridden, with no back-bone, and no pride. They plan to open it next year, on September 11th, the 10th anniversary of the atrocity. Is that tasteless enough for you? I am surprised they haven’t organized a 757 fly-by.
    Public opinion can put a stop to this disgraceful plan. We can tell this group, and the politicians who support them, that enough is enough. This is one insult too far. America is a big country, with plenty of room to build their offensive mosque, if they have to, somewhere else. Somewhere perhaps more appropriate to the spirit of their religion, like the Arizona desert, or Death Valley.
    Paraphrased from youtube.com/watch?v=vjS0Novt3X4. Watch and learn.

    August 14, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
    • reACTIONarry

      RE: Islam despises what America is, it rejects everything America stands for, including freedom and diversity, and any muslim who denies that is a liar.

      You don't know what you are talking about. But lets say we allow religions to be discriminated against because they are against freedom and diversity – there wouldn't be any religions left!

      August 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
    • Peter

      One can argue that many other historical terrorist acts and acts of violence would not exist without Christianity (see Spain conquest of Americas). But the argument there is people twisted religion towards a violent end. Both the bible and the curan can be interpreted in perverse ways. '

      August 14, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
    • Brenda

      Very well put and I agree with you completely. It is a shame that we do not honor and respect the over 4000 people who were killed on 9-11, most of them at Ground Zero. If I had lost a loved one there I would be very sad and disillusioned at America for allowing something like this to happen. I pray that enough Americans will stand up and object to the mosque being built at Ground Zero, not because we want to take away anyone's right to practice their religion but because it can be built anywhere else and not hurt so many people. We should respect all the families of those who lost their lives on 9-11. If muslims really wanted to just worship, they would not be trying to stir up this controversy. I am saddened for America.

      August 14, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
    • Brenda

      My previous reply above was for"Don". I agree with what he said but have never felt strong enough in the past to post a comment so I didn't make that clear. I am replying to Don. Thank you, Don.

      August 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
    • Ken Wood

      If Islam is so terrible, won't others see it for what it is? Why be afraid of what they say? Truth trumps

      August 14, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
    • Matt J.

      I wouldn't count on that mosque being there forever - if you know what I mean.

      August 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  17. Barbara A. Kraskin

    I don't think many people would stand in the way of the Muslims building a mosque, however, they should not be allowed to build it so close to Ground Zero. They are gloating that they can use our freedoms to stick a knife in the eyes of everyone involved in that atrocity – every American, and particularly New Yorkers. If the Muslims were truly the peace loving people they say they are, we would have heard their voices loudly raised against Muslim terrorists. All we have heard are words. They are insulting us all by rubbing salt in our wounds, reminding us of of how naive we have been and continue to be. It is very clear that they will not stop until they take over the free world. The only thing peaceful about this is the invasion taking place right under our noses. Let them build all the mosques they want, but somewhere else!

    August 14, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
    • OrangeCat46

      Somewhere else like??

      Murfreesboro, TN? They fought against one there. Sheyboygan, Wisconsin? Opposed! Temecula, CA? Again fought against!

      So pardon me, but I find it hard to believe this is simply about Ground Zero, and that there's not far more intolerance than you're willing to admit...let alone oppose.

      August 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
  18. Jonathan

    I agree with the president, as all freedom-loving Americans should in this case.

    August 14, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
    • reACTIONarry

      Right ON! Freedom is an empty promise if all it means is freedom for those who agree with you. We must be willing to stick up for the minority, the disposed and and the outcast. THEN we will earn our own freedom!

      August 14, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
    • Matt J.

      Ah, but what about the freedom to disagree? What if THAT is the freedom I love?

      The President should have made it just as clear that he supports the right to protest the decision to allow the mosque. Since he forgot to do that, the Republicunning are going to have a field day taking advantage of this between now and Election Day in November.

      August 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  19. Alan

    I agree that all people should be treated equally, but I fully disagree with the building of a Mosque near ground zero, let them build it somewhere else, in history mosques have been built in areas to show that they have won the war, this shoul dnot be allowed, let the american people's voice be heard, ground zero is a sacred place and should be treated as such, do not forget who has died in this and what we have been fighting for, or it is all for nothing. Keep the Mosque away from Ground Zero.

    August 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Alan – I won't forget who died – but do you? Do you forget that innocent Muslims were in the towers when the planes struck too?

      I also won't forget who did this – fanatics who want to stop freedom of religion across the globe. If we reduce ouselves to religious factions and start acting with the same discrimination as them, only in favor of a different side, then we will be playing right into their hands.

      August 14, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • OrangeCat46

      Given that I can find examples of opposition to mosques in sites like Wisconsin, Tennessee and California, I'm sorry, but I don't believe this is about Ground Zero.

      August 14, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
  20. kip

    I agree with our President.

    August 14, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
    • AL

      If this issue were about religion I would agree however it is about symbols and good taste. The extremists of this world see our tolerance as a weakness and use it against us.

      August 14, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • Mike in KC

      AL, I hardly think extremists view adherence to the Constitution as weakness. Like it or not, the Constitution protects this Mosque and those who wish to build and worship in it just as much as if it were a Christian Church or Synagogue. As to tolerance, members of the US Armed Forces are currently engaged in teaching the Taliban and what little remains of Al Qaeda exactly what the limits of our tolerance are wouldn't you say?

      August 14, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
    • kathleen

      I believe President Obama should check on the groups who would fund the mosque to insure they have no terrorist links before expressing support for the project.

      August 14, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
    • Theodora

      American Slavery was an institution of terrorism for 300 hundred years, yet no one is telling white people to leave or telling them where to live. And no one is judging all whites based on the terrorists who instituted slavery. I support the President on the Mosque controversy.

      August 14, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
    • odorel

      I totally agree with President Obama. Muslims also died on 9/11 in those towers. Let's honor our constitution!!!!!

      August 14, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
    • Mike

      Al, I agree with you in theory. my only concern is for the moderate muslims who live in that neighborhood. Should they be forced between moving out or being denied a place to pray? By not allowing mosques in the neighborhood, you're essentially driving out the muslim community.

      August 14, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
    • SomeoneOnline

      This isn't only about religion and therefore the 'religious freedom' argument is not sufficient to address this issue. Islam isn't just a religion anymore. It has evolved into something more than that – it has become an ideology that controls every aspect of life and demands absolute obedience – we would all hope and like to believe that this extreme interpretation is followed by a fanatic minority, but unfortunately wherever one looks, all that is seen/heard is the opposite. So it is logical for most people to assume that the 'moderate muslim majority' term we constantly hear about – is a fabrication – propagated in the name of political correctness. Obviously not everyone is a suicidal jihad lover, but the crackpots seem to be clearly in control and the so called 'moderates' are rarely heard; except of-course when a mosque needs to be built or someone 'insults' them by drawing a cartoon. Regardless of whether this mosque is built or not, peaceful coexistence and good relations between a lot of the followers of islam and the rest of society, not just in this country, is impossible without considerable moderation within islam. Attacking those who criticize islam, so that you can feel good about 'upholding american values', isn't going to help anyone. A spade needs to be called a spade.

      August 15, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
    • amuslim

      @Someoneonline:

      You have just painted a group of people with accusations that are untrue and defended them with evidence based on spurious lies.
      You are advocating religious persecution and the abrogation of the constitution and are using bigoted villification to do it.

      Just calling a spade a spade.

      August 16, 2010 at 10:24 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.