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. Umer

    Just as the Christians violate the first of the Ten Commandments, they violate the First Amendment.

    August 18, 2010 at 10:02 am |
    • Ben

      Dear Omar,

      Please do not hide behind the Judeo-Christian (that means Jews and Western Christian for your sense of context) inspired 1st Amendment to spread your racist religious views.


      August 18, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
    • Ben

      And please let me know when the first Islamic "republic" establishes something even remotely approaching the Constitution and Bill of Rights you so glibly quote.

      August 18, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  2. JtotheK

    The media portrays true patriots as troops or flag wavers standing on a corner. I could train a monkey to wave a flag, that does not make the monkey patriotic. I can’t train the monkey to read the constitution or live the constitution. If you really are a true patriot, and support the troops, then we should bring them home and let them live. The definition of patriotism cannot be hijacked by people with a specific political agenda. Patriotism should be about the love for our community and our nation, and those people in it, despite race, religion, etc. We are a diverse society, and that is part of what makes us so great. A true patriot speaks up for their constitution and for their rights as well as the rights of others. True patriots are those without fear and don’t use fear to promote their agenda.

    “On the alter of God, I pledge undying hostility to any government restriction on the free minds of the people.” – Tomas Jefferson

    August 18, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  3. omar

    Living in this country, we all must try to create peace and remove the hatred among us. If one muslim commit a crime, we should not blame all muslims. Living in New York for 20 years, I recall one thing that never forget. When outage happend in New York for couple days there were no street lights. Most muslims came from their home and stand in front of the street to show the drivers direction because there was no electricity and it was our responsbility as American to help the people.. Even that was published in Newsday. We are not criminals. Islam is peace.

    August 18, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  4. Mark from Middle River

    Vic – hi Vic. I guess my thoughts are that when the twin towers came crashing down there were numerous buildings surrounding it that were damaged. Some of those buildings were damaged so badly that they had to be torn down post 9/11. I was shocked when they said that this building was "at" ground zero. I later learned that this thing is two New York city blocks up and one block over from the place where the towers stood. It then hit me that property cost close to ground zero would be off the scale an valued highly. Instead the picture they show is a graffiti covered front building. 

    My thoughts are I would rather see some one make a house of worship there than to just have a broke down looking building. 

    The last thing is that there is a good chance that the new WTC will be viewable from this mosque and for those who feel it is an insult, what would be a better reminder of American power and might than to come out of that mosque and see the new WtC.   

    August 17, 2010 at 7:04 pm |
    • Chaim

      @Mark from Middle River

      Your post is excellent. Thank you for sharing it with us.

      August 18, 2010 at 12:32 am |
    • Pam


      August 18, 2010 at 7:47 am |
  5. Ferdinand of Castile

    President Obama's biggest weakness is the thought he has that, there is a clear difference between "Radical Islam" and "Mainstream Islam" which he argues is peaceful. This classification is not from the Qoran but it is from American administrators who are mainly Islamoignorant. We live with so many "Radical" muslims who are radical in thoughts but remain unrecognised by the public because they have not put into actions their "radical" thoughts. The President is very wrong!!

    August 17, 2010 at 7:34 am |
    • WISDOM

      Actually the difference between Radical Islam and moderate one is the Quran itself. Moderate ones are mostly cultured informed folks who value Humanity more than Ethnicity and are at peace with other cultures.
      The Radical ones are inspired by the violent verses in the quran (Al Baqara 2(244), Al-Nisa’4(76,77,84,89), Al-Anfal 8(12,39), Al-Tawba 9:(5,14,29), 9(88,112,123), 47(4) )...and therefore see everyone, including the moderate muslims, as enemies of Allah for compromising or being at peace with non-muslims.
      We do have these terrorists among christians as well. So its not a geographic or a faith thing. Its Wisdom vs Stupidity thing. And its availlable in every marketplace.

      August 17, 2010 at 9:03 am |
    • Pam

      Ferdinand, I've taken the time and energy to educate myself about Islam. Your remarks are just not correct. American Muslims, by and large, are not radical, nor are they tempted to become radical, unless, of course, we push them that far. Unfortunately, we are pushing. The radical Muslims are no more representative of Islam than Fred Phelps is of Christianity - (or the Crusaders of Christianity, come to that). Our unpleasant behavior regarding this proposed community center plays right into the hands of those terrorists who seek to destroy us - they can use our hysteria to solidify and unite even politically moderate Muslims.

      August 18, 2010 at 7:46 am |
  6. Mark from Middle River

    Way to go Smith. This is another angle for this. Turn it into another way to blame G.W. and the republicans. That's what we as a society do with such major stories of issues. We use it as a chance or opening to "rail" against someone or some people who we already had a dislike for. Heck Smith you are just human and can't really help yourself. 

    It's the Jews, it's G.W. , it's the republicans .... In the end it's just another mindless rant trying to be relevant to a group of people whose minds are already hardwired one way or another.  

    August 16, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
    • Vic

      @Mark from Middle River

      Instead of another mindless rant, I would like to ask you a question:
      What are your thoughts on the roots of the problem and what solutions would you like to suggest?

      August 17, 2010 at 8:04 am |
  7. Smith in Oregon

    Jewish owners of the majority of News Media appears to be driving this wedge non-issue. Instead of the Republican candidates being forced to actually inform the American voters what plans they have to return Millions of jobs back to America which Republican's have for decades outsourced and moved to China and Cambodia. What if any plans do Republican's have to greatly improve America's economy? It appears they have No Idea, No Plans and No intention of telling the American voters they have no plan. Instead they spew fear of 'terror babys' and fear of a mosque built two blocks from where the twin towers once stood. Fear worked for Bush jr, is that all they have to offer is 'fear'?

    August 16, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
    • Reality

      Then there is Rupert Murdoch and also all those non-Jewish stock holders!!!!

      August 17, 2010 at 12:13 am |
  8. Mark from Middle River

    I remain to say that what concerns me more is that as soon as this mosque is built some nut will do something along the lines of blowing it up. The possible loss of life both inside worshipping and outside bystanders would be horrific. 

    Is that a reason to move the mosque ... No. But in someways it would be a banner day for so many interests in society. 

    Those that want eye for an eye will get a sence of vengance for 9/11 and the cycle will continue. 

    Those who are militant Muslims will be able to point their fingers to the entire Muslim world to say "all" of America is at war with Islam.

    The news media .... I do not know what will be worst. The talking heads who will be dredged up to talk about it or the "special alert report" theme music that will be playd over and over that day. I wonder if it will be the march to war music or the lone solo piano music that they will play. 

    Or will it just be Obama who .... And I pray this is not true... Who needs his 9/11 moment. He missed it with the gulf spill to look commander and chief-ish. Such an attack might give that to him.

    Oh, can't forget Reality's folks. They would just point to the problems being people of faith and with out them there would be peace. Talk about one not living in reality 🙂 

    In the end this mosque has to be built because other than the ablity to be a place of worship it has the potential to feed, in some ways the need of so so many. 

    August 16, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
    • Reality

      One more time for Mark's benefit:

      Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "bowers", "kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some easy rules of life. No clerics, imams, rabbis, professors of religion and priests needed or desired. Ditto for their houses and classes of "worthless worship". It will be called the great "Pink Slipping" of religion and its leaders.

      John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

      The Situation Today

      Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed

      It is very disturbing that such religious violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

      August 16, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Reality. –  I love the part about the posting it on every news paper until people submit to your opinions. It does have a 1940s Germany tone. Maybe it's because it just sounds like another weak attack on faith and those who are people of faith.

      You have a bunch of could of and would of's and a few barrings from another cut and paste job. In someways you are no different than the ones that post scripture or surats on this blog. Reality, I will tell you this. There are post you make that I have read but those are when you are expressing your views in your own words. 

      This brings me to this responce Reality. I am going to give you a bit of advice that might help you along the way. You said you would repost that cut and paste everyday until people resolve to drop their views and accept yours. I now understand the odd thinking of your massive repeats of post. Here is the advice to you my friend , there is a very high chance that no one here on these blogs are reading them. Same as the nuts who suggest all of us would change our views if we go to this URL, read some obsure book, or go to some website. Folks just simply pass those post without a further care to read.  

      As I have said a few times here reality, you are attempting to change the hearts and minds of people who read and post too politcal and religous blogs. Remember me saying how even as different as we all might be there is a good chance we all would test almost as siblings in some phycological test. You could no more change my mind as chances are I could change yours and chances are most here are the same. 

      What we can do with this blog section of CNN is to try to find a way to coexist together in this society. With your post coexistance does not appear to be an option. 

      I used to be like you Reality. I believed that the only world, the only perfect world could exist by the annihilation of those that believed differently than I did. That some how the only thing holding back mankind where others that thought and believed differently. It was not only in areas of faith but in many areas. It wasn't as if I wanted them dead but I wanted different  ways of thinking reduced or eliminated. 

      This is why I pity you Reality. You have yet to learn that the world works so much better when sometimes we all are not on the same page. Sometimes it is good to hear other thoughts and opinions. 

      See, we can argue and debate faith untill the cows come home but again are we really going to change one anothers minds? You know the answer is a good chance no. Are we going to change anyone who comes to this blogs mind? Chances are that would be another no. What we can do is try to find away to coexist in society. It's a hope. Maybe it's just a dream. 

      August 17, 2010 at 9:10 pm |
    • Reality

      Obviously Mark from Middle River was born in faith, lost said faith and returned to it due to the reoccurrence of the Christian form of the Three B Syndrome i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in Christianity. There, however, is a free Five Step program for curing this. Just ask and you shall receive!!! Five Step programs are also available for the followers of the warmongering Arab. Ditto for a program for the followers of the mythical Moses and Abraham.

      August 18, 2010 at 12:11 am |
  9. NeverForget911

    First, this is about the Mosques location...NOT the right to have one.
    America today has not flown planes into anyones city, and killed countless numbers of innocent people, including children, and then attacked that countrys defense buildings and so on.
    Go ahead and trust them, be pretty ironic if they decide to use that place for thier next killing spree. All you bleeding hearts out there, better wake up. Terroroists could well blend in and do thier thing. Remember, that last attack was horrendous, but there were attacks there prior. For some reason, that seemed to be thier choosen place to launch from.
    Personally, I don't trust them. You can forgive , but you better never forget.
    Perhaps they not all terrorists,but it is an associative thing What was done to the people here in this counrty,is still fresh, and not taken lightly. If that includes those who also died on 9/11 of that religion, then I would think they would see this as an insensitive act too.

    August 16, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
  10. dan

    The planned mosque has nothing to do with Obama and is strictly a local NY issue. NY has the power to approve or deny the building permit. I find it curious why a 15 story building is needed.....read http://www.hard-truths.blog.spot.com

    August 16, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  11. Skimmer

    We here constitution allows it people only throw up the constitution when they don’t have another good excuse. It is not an issue of religion yours against mine it is an issue of common sense. And here is why! Just turn on any news channel read any news on any blog or the old fashion newspaper. In all countries of the world there is disruption caused by muslims in the name of islam. Why is American so desperate to get this disruption in America? This is question we should be asking?

    August 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  12. charrs@nyc

    Our troops are fighting for the right for Americans to practice all religions – including Islam. And yet we are so quick to decide that these folks should not have the right to worship where they wish. If we have our government decide to deny this mosque – what will you then say when we have our government deny the location of your church.

    August 16, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
    • WISDOM

      NOPE!! Our troops are fighting because George said Iraqis have WMD!! And that 'the people who did these (9/11) will hear from us'....Sadly though, none of the 9/11 perprators are iraqis or afghanis, but saudis. Islam can and still is practicing islamic faith anywhere in this nation...but why specifically at ground zero? why did they refuse Gov Patterson of alternative venues?
      Cant anyone remember why we are at war anymore?

      August 16, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  13. rocknwroll

    Americans wake up! Here we have the president, like him or not, fulfilling his oath to defend and uphold the constitution and the sheople of America are led by the nose by a group of opportunistic propagandists to believe he has done something disloyal. Can all Americans be so ignorant? I surely hope not. If anything it should awake us to the fact that these same propagandists will be coming after our rights next if we are so easily hoodwinked. We should be wary of these opportunists who would love to take away our freedoms one at a time or in one fell swoop. Maybe when we start to lose our right to read what we want to, associate with whom we like and think what we want we will snap out of our trance of television, Xbox and MTV and stand up for the principle this country was founded on. Freedom!!

    August 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  14. Bellasvoice

    Since when do certain individuals believe they have the right to dictate when and where someone can practice their reglion? Would we be having this discussion if Christians wanted to build a church near Ground Zero? Was this country not based on acceptance of many ideals? It is extremely frustrating to hear our politicans take a stand that is based entirely on their desire to get re-elected instead of standing on their own ideals.

    August 16, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  15. Ron Anderson

    I think the Prersident is right, but he should not have made a comment. It may ruin his polical career and cost him the next election. People don't care about weather or not the Muslums have a right to build a mosque there, they see it as a slap in the face of all amereicans.

    August 16, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
    • WISDOM

      Im more worried about him constantly finding the need to comment on non issues, therefore making national case out of a Local issues, without actually giving the issue a serious thought...thats definitely Not the man i voted for. He is still a better alternative to mcpalin train wrecks.

      August 16, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  16. beverly j newsom

    what freedom of religion ours prayers in schools our pledge of alligence in god we trust whatz up all gone we fought for this country lost many young people so wrong just so wrong they get all the welfare that americans cannot get they get tax breaks that we as americans cannot get this frickin society suck and i would like to go to thier county and recieve the rewards for killing thier people like ours no mosque at ground zero send them all back so they can hate us BLACK HAWK DOWN need to say more

    August 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  17. Pat Oelschlager

    The Muslims have a right to build a mosque. The president should have added that it would be insentive to build one so close to the towers, and why would they want to.

    August 16, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • beverly j newsom

      only to make a mockery of us that is the only reason they are rubbing salt in a wound obama will not be our next president i voted for him the last time not this time those people have not rights they were not born here he speaks of their rights no BLACK HAWK DOWN now we welcome them sucks

      August 16, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      Why would they want a community center that welcomes Muslims where they live and work? Perhaps because they have to dodge vitriol like barbara's every day.

      August 16, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      My bad–beverly.

      August 16, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
  18. S Kimbro

    Give the guy a break. He said building a mosque, church or synagogue was legal according to our Constitution. He never said it was a good idea.

    When Pres Bush started to Iraq war, several celebrities spoke out against it, in particular Martin Sheen and the Dixie Chicks. Sheen had his credit card advertising contract canceled, but all he said was that the war was wrong, he had to speak out, and it it tanked his career, so be it. The guy had real class.

    Then the other group found out that their fan base did not approve of ltheir opinions. They spent months whining about how their right to free speech was being abused even though there is no constitutional mandate that we had to like their free speech. There was no government retaliation against them that I ever heard of. They overlooked the general public's own right to free speech.

    So yes, President Obama was correct in all of his remarks. It's just too bad that the ones concerned in this building project and the press couldn't have handled it better.

    August 16, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  19. Shirle

    Everyone is being so careful with their comments so as to not offend or appear not compassionate. I'm willing to bet almost all of us Americans smolder inside as to what happened on that infamous day of 9/11 and really would like to get some kind of revenge for the innocents whose lives were lost that miserable day. So let them build their mosque in the shadow of the 9/11 site. Then, hopefully, someone who is just as "nuts" will come along and bomb the place to bits and pieces. I'm peace loving and will walk away from confrontation; but, in this instance, I'd like to see that happen.....an eye for an eye....it's the only thing that works nowadays.

    August 16, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • Matt J.

      Not me! I'll gladly offend lots of people by saying that the battle with Islam may very well undo the movement towards religious tolerance and freedom that has been growing since the Treaty of Westphalia. I'll even say that if we want to preserve what religious freedom we have achieved, we will have to make Islam the one exception to the First Amendment. Yes, Islam should be the world's one and only illegal religion.

      There. Is there anyone I missed? Have I offended you all on both sides of the discussion now?

      August 16, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      I'd much rather be an offender here in peaceable discussion than be a proponent of bombing in real life. You need help.

      August 16, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
    • Benjamin (One whose name means son of the right hand)

      Perhaps the peaceful proponents of the mosque should show that they are compasionate and not acting to instigate and build this somewhere else.

      August 18, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  20. Pam

    Let us not forget – the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001 where over innocent 3,000 people were killed by Muslims under the direction of a monster named Bin Laden in his words, "for Jihad." We the people of the United States were ALL affected by this horrible attack. We sent troops to Afghanistan in response to this attack. Nine years later, we're still over there. How can anyone say this issue of building a mosque is a "local issue"? Every family member who has a son, spouse, nephew, niece, grand child, etc involved in the war, not just those troops there now, but the troops who have been there in the past or are being trained to go. This attack also affected several hundred companies who rented space in the twin towers were affected. Our government leaders and personnel in the Pentagon AND their families were affected. The untold amount of grief of every American IS real. If you pay taxes in this country, you're financiing that war in Afghanistan. How can anyone say that this issue is a "local issue"? The list can go on and on. The site of the twin towers is the resting place for the majority of those killed that day. The families and friends of those who lost their lives that day would not call it a "local issue." This isn't about "religious freedom", it's about compassion and common sense.

    August 16, 2010 at 5:54 am |
    • Matt J.

      How can it be a local issue? By the principle known as 'Federalism'. You should read about it.

      August 16, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      There's also the little issue that this isn't AT the WTC site. Should all your emotions about that site spill out to overrule all NYC's ordinances? Where do you draw the line? two block? four? eight? just where do your emotions about the WTC stop? Where do the locals get to have a say again?

      It's exactly this rhetoric that would deprive those most directly effected by 9/11–i.e. New Yorkers–from their say through their own existing laws.

      August 16, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
    • Benjamin (One whose name means son of the right hand)

      If two blocks is not an issue, why not on the site. If it is clearly causing this much pain and anguish to the victems...the real victe,s...not simply New Yorkers but those whose family members died there. Some where from New York. Many were not. I will not accept being called a racist for my belief on this. How can someone cry out for me to be tolerant and hang the cloud of racism or intolerance over my head for my belief? Perhaps those demanding tolerance should stop and think about the insensativity of builfding what will surely be a pilgramage spot for those who support the attackers on 9-11, especially if they twice win by winning this fight.

      And, I am not from New York. But, I am an American. So, please do not tell me I do not have a right to have feelings about 9-11 (or Peal Harbor or any other of the historical and important spots of America just because I do not physically reside there).

      If that is your argument, please tell the president to be quiet too.

      August 18, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
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About this blog

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.