August 15th, 2010
04:15 PM ET

Proposed New York Islamic center becomes national political issue

Two influential congressmen, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, debated the proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero on CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley.

Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and McCarthy, recruitment chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, disagreed whether the project is figuring into national politics.

Van Hollen called it a local issue; McCarthy said President Obama has made it a national one.

Republicans are making more political hay out of the debate, but the St. Petersburg Times reports that Democrats are making it an issue in the Florida Senate race.

Excerpts from the Van Hollen/McCarthy face-off:

VAN HOLLEN: Candy, first of all, I think that when it comes to 9/11 and the memory of 9/11, we should all agree that it would be wrong to politicize this issue. … I agree with the president. I think the issue is one for the people of New York City. And that's why the mayor of New York City, Mayor Bloomberg, put together an interfaith group - again, Christians, Jews, Muslims - and on the 9/11 families, some have been in favor of it, some have been against it. You know, I think it's up to the people of New York. I mean, they are obviously the folks who are right there at the site of the attack of 9/11.

MCCARTHY: I think the president - if Chris is saying this is a New York issue - then why did the president engage in it? But if you listen what he first said, he brought up the exact location and said he supported it. Look, you look at the poll. There is a sensitivity to that area. Yes, we have the freedom. Build a mosque; build more than one mosque, but don't build it there. There are other places to build them. And I think that's really what America is saying.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

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

soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. Stuart

    I think people forget in this politically correct world that just because you have the right to do something, doesn't mean you should do it.

    No one I know or heard, that is against building at ground zero, thinks that they don't have the right to build the cultural center/mosque. What they are saying is the don't think they should, because it is incensitive to alot of people. I also don't think the KKK should build a center next to the resting place of Martin Luther King (though they have the right) maybe i hate all white people?

    Before you call me a racist, or spew your hate at me, look in the mirror and realize the hate you are about to vomit up to someone you have no idea if they are black, white, brown, yellow, tan, purple etc...

    Wouldn't it be nice to take your colored glasses off, and just see people as people?

    August 27, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  2. Samuel: One whose name means 'Heard by God', (Asked of God)

    Finally beloved,
    Weapons of our warfare is not physical but spiritual...mighty to the pulling down of strong hold...
    Get back to the battle...on our knees...and see the king working....

    August 26, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
  3. Cathy Copeland

    CNN needs to do some investigation before writing about the mosque at ground zero. I know that fair investigative journalism is something that is foreign to them, but they should know that after a major Muslim victory, the Muslims mark their success by building mosques and other Muslim shrines. What about asking the Muslims to "give a little" instead of always asking Americans to suck it up and take the "high" road? If they are serious about mending relations, they should be more sensitive to the devastation that their nation has done in New York.

    August 20, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  4. Bill Price

    If you really want a monument to the fallen in 9/11 instead of building something that no one will visit ,turn it into a spiritial circle,what I mean is ask all religions from Musslums,Jews,Chritians and religions of all types to build their own place of worship around in a circle, around the site of ground zero and have a large monument in the center where everyone of every faith can meet,Mosques,Synigogs, and churches in stead of everyone complaining about a fundamental right that everyone should have to worship in a faith of their choice,besides the proposed Mosque is 2 blocks away and it is their rights afforded to them by the founding fathers.The president was right,they are not breaking the law.

    August 19, 2010 at 10:37 am |
  5. Iqbal Khan

    Hello, Read This


    Publication: Times Of India Mumbai;

    Page Number:12

    Terrorism is certainly not a Muslim monopoly


    "All Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims." This comment , frequently heard after the Mumbai bomb blasts implies that terrorism is a Muslim specialty, if not a monopoly. The facts are very different.
    First, there is nothing new about terrorism. In 1881, anarchists killed the Russian Tsar Alexander II and 21 bystanders. In 1901, anarchists killed US President McKinley as well as King Humbert I of Italy . World War I started in 1914 when anarchists killed Archduke Ferdinand of Austria . These terrorist attacks were not Muslim.
    Terrorism is generally defined as the killing of civilians for political reasons. Going by this definition, the British Raj referred to Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad and many other Indian freedom fighters as terrorists. These were Hindu and Sikh rather than Muslim.
    Guerrilla fighters from Mao Zedong to Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro killed civilians during their revolutionary campaigns. They too were called terrorists until they triumphed. Nothing Muslim about them.
    In Palestine, after World War II, Jewish groups (the Haganah, Irgun and Stern Gang) fought for the creation of a Jewish state, bombing hotels and installations and killing civilians. The British, who then governed Palestine , rightly called these Jewish groups terrorists. Many of these terrorists later became leaders of independent Israel – Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon. Ironically, these former terrorists then lambasted terrorism, applying this label only to Arabs fighting for the very same nationhood that the Jews had fought for earlier.
    In Germany in 1968-92, the Baader-Meinhoff Gang killed dozens, including the head of Treuhand, the German privatisation agency. In Italy , the Red Brigades kidnapped and killed Aldo Moro, former prime minister.
    The Japanese Red Army was an Asian version of this. Japan was also the home of Aum Shinrikyo, a Buddhist cult that tried to kill thousands in the Tokyo metro system using nerve gas in 1995.
    In Europe , the Irish Republican Army has been a Catholic terrorist organisation for almost a century. Spain and France face a terrorist challenge from ETA, the Basque terrorist organisation.
    Africa is ravaged by so much civil war and internal strife that few people even bother to check which groups can be labelled terrorist. They stretch across the continent. Possibly the most notorious is the Lord's Salvation Army in Uganda, a Christian outfit that uses children as warriors.
    In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers have long constituted one of the most vicious and formidable terrorist groups in the world. They were the first to train children as terrorists. They happen to be Hindus. Suicide bombing is widely associated with Muslim Palestinians and Iraqis, but the Tamil Tigers were the first to use this tactic on a large scale. One such suicide bomber assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
    In India, the militants in Kashmir are Muslim. But they are only one of several militant groups. The Punjab militants, led by Bhindranwale, were Sikhs. The United Liberation Front of Assam is a Hindu terrorist group that targets Muslims rather than the other way round. Tripura has witnessed the rise and fall of several terrorist groups, and so have Bodo strongholds in Assam . Christian Mizos mounted an insurrection for decades, and Christian Nagas are still heading militant groups.
    But most important of all are the Maoist terrorist groups that now exist in no less than 150 out of India 's 600 districts. They have attacked police stations, and killed and razed entire villages that oppose them. These are secular terrorists (like the Baader Meinhof Gang or Red Brigades). In terms of membership and area controlled, secular terrorists are far ahead of Muslim terrorists.
    In sum, terrorism is certainly not a Muslim monopoly.
    There are or have been terrorist groups among Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and even Buddhists. Secular terrorists (anarchists, Maoists) have been the biggest killers.
    Why then is there such a widespread impression that most or all terrorist groups are Muslim? I see two reasons. First, the Indian elite keenly follows the western media, and the West feels under attack from Islamic groups. Catholic Irish terrorists have killed far more people in Britain than Muslims, yet the subway bombings in London and Madrid are what Europeans remember today. The Baader Meinhof Gang, IRA and Red Brigades no longer pose much of a threat, but after 9/11 Americans and Europeans fear that they could be hit anywhere anytime. So they focus attention on Islamic militancy. They pay little notice to other forms of terrorism in Africa, Sri Lanka or India : these pose no threat to the West.
    Within India, Maoists pose a far greater threat than Muslim militants in 150 districts, one-third of India 's area. But major cities feel threatened only by Muslim groups. So the national elite and media focus overwhelmingly on Muslim terrorism. The elite are hardly aware that this is an elite phenomenon.

    August 18, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
  6. Darius

    Tying 9/11 to Islam would be like tying some random KKK members who lynched a black family to Christianity. Do you see how stereotyping DOESN'T WORK?

    August 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • Cathy Copeland

      Darius, Pleeeezzzz, give us a break! Stereotyping has nothing to do with it. It's a matter of sensitivity toward the families who were devastated.

      August 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  7. Darius

    Basically, if the Muslim leaders of this Cultural Center and Mosque agree to move it somewhere else they are agreeing that Islam was tied to the attacks on 9/11, when in reality it could not have been farther from the tenants of the Koran. Stupid redneck Americans need to stop tying 9/11 to Islam, once they remove the idea that Islam caused 9/11 there will be no more issue regarding this Cultural Center and Mosque near Ground Zero.

    August 18, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  8. Benjamin (One whose name means son of the right hand)

    Oh, and by the way, why the Cordoba Group? This references the period in which Islam conquered Spain (and please stop with the "this was an Islamic city of tolerance" crap).

    How excited would Muslims be if I used a group called Gordon of Khartoum (sure he conquered the city and was a British national and governor, but he ended slavery, allowed religious tolerance and greatly improved the city until he was murdered by the Mahdists) to build a Christian center in a Bosnia section of Sarajevo??? How about Darfur???

    August 18, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  9. LCMG

    If the terrorists had been of the Catholic faith for instance, would you not want a church erected at the site. The mosque is a place of workship. The muslim religion is not responsible for the terrorist attack. The people who attacked us happen to be muslim. The mosque is for the all people of our great nation. Why is a mosque associated with anti-american sentiments? Wake up people and open your minds.

    August 18, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Ben

      No one argues freedom of religion. No one argues that there is not a right to build a place of worship. However, if this were Christians as is bening so frequently pointed out and the Christians had destroyed a building, the press would not be screaming for tolerance.

      However, I think this group knows at the very least they are pushing buttons. Personally, as a Christian, if another Christain yelling how Jews were going to hell mowed down dozens of people in a Jewish neighborhood, I would not even think to try to put a church in that neighborhood. This is because I am a moderate (a true moderate), I know that it would hurt people, offend others and generally upset people. And, even if I had not realized it would, as a "moderate," once I realized it would cause these problems and pain, I would not push it.

      That iis, of course, unless I had a different agenda.

      August 18, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  10. Isabel Smith

    Well a spark doesn't start a fire unless there is fuel to burn, and in this case, I have a problem with the inappropriateness of a mosque being built in the shadow of where muslim forces destroyed the twin towers. I look at this mosque as being the grand central of terrorist cell groups and its because the good muslims cannot control the actions of the taliban/radical/fundamentalist muslims - so what makes them think they can control them in this mosque - that's issue #1. Issue #2 is that i see the location of this mosque as a statement equivalent to a dog pissing on a tree to mark their territory - I see the mosque as the muslim symbol of taking over the united states. Statement: would they let us build a center in their country where we just bombed? We are not the doormat for the world. We are a place where a person can come, make a living, raise a family and pray the way they want to.We are not a place where you come here and change our language and tell us what to do. If that were the case, why aren't we speaking Italian or Gaelic? You come here, learn the law of the land, mind your own business, pursue your own happiness. It is what we do.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  11. Double standard

    Why is it acceptable for nuns to have an abbey at Auschwitz concentration camp, actually inside the camp, but it is not acceptable for Muslims to have a religious and cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero? The Catholic Church did little or nothing to protect the Jews, yet they have an outpost in a place that destroyed millions of lives. If we are going to ban the Islamic center from being near GZ then the nuns should be expelled from Auschwitz as well.

    August 18, 2010 at 10:11 am |


      August 18, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  12. Umer

    To see the falsity of christianity google answering christianity...

    August 18, 2010 at 10:04 am |
    • Reality

      Although the original deadline for the new complex (outside of Auschwitz), set in 1990, proved overly optimistic, work progressed on the interfaith center and the convent, which was ready in 1993. Nevertheless the nuns continued to be reluctant to leave the old building, and this was only accomplished in the summer of 1993 following a letter from the pope and pressure from the Polish Bishops' Conference. Seven of the 14 nuns agreed to move to the new convent, the others going elsewhere. Jewish-Catholic relations returned to normal and the dialogue was resumed. In particular Jews were encouraged by the understanding that had been evinced towards Jewish sensibilities by many Catholic quarters.

      Jewish sensitivity to Auschwitz was also recognized by the new Polish regime, which succeeded the communists, and a special commission was set up, with the participation of Jewish scholars, to prepare completely new texts for the information and inscriptions presented in Auschwitz-Birkenau and the literature available there, in which due prominence would be given to the Jewish aspects of the site and to the fact that of the then current figures of 1,100,000 victims at Auschwitz, 90% were Jews (the others being approximately 83,000 Poles, 19,000 gypsies, and 12,000 Soviet prisoners of war).

      August 18, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
    • Asad

      St. Luke's ~ San Lucas Episcopal Church, Vancouver, Washington has joined with the local Islamic Society and other Faith attdirions (Native American, Budhhist, Jewish, Ba'Hai) to present a summer program for children presenting all the different faiths and how they relate to a central theme. For example, last year, our theme was water and this year it was wind. We started with the Islamic and Jewish friends and have grown since then to include the other faiths. Next year, we hope to add Sikh and Hindu brothers and sisters to our group. The Islamics are being invited to speak to our children during Sunday School this year.Members of our congregation have attended several Iftars (the meal after fasting during Ramadan), services and have learned about the beliefs and attdirions of our Moslem friends. They have been invited to attend Thanksgiving dinners at our church as well as other celebrations.At the recent Peace and Justice Fair, we saved a place next to our booth for the Islamic Society and made sure that there were no problems arising. They had nothing but thanks for being there and appropriate questions regarding their religion. We try to express our belief that we are all on our own path up the mountain to God, but no path is better than another, just different.

      March 2, 2012 at 9:49 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.