It’s good to have President Obama on record on the proposed mosque at Ground Zero. To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, he supports it, and he does so in his usual style:
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 unshakable. 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.
Obama’s statement begs the question posed by the mosque (or whatever it is) at Ground Zero. No one has questioned the right of Muslims to practice their religion the same as anyone else in this country. Rather, those opposed to the mosque have asked the proponents to recognize and give way to the feelings of ordinary Americans that a mosque does not belong at Ground Zero.
If it is another mosque that is wanted, as Obama suggests, ordinary Americans desire only that it be built somewhere else in New York. Obama’s invocation of the First Amendment right of the free exercise of religion is not on point.
In the good old USA, citizens have a right to do many wrongs. One such wrong would be the establishment of a Muslim shrine at Ground Zero. Obama simply does not engage the point. He does not argue that the establishment of a Muslim shrine at Ground Zero would be right.
He says that we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities involved with the development of lower Manhattan, but then again, apparently we need not. His acknowledgment of the need to recognize and respect the sensitivities involved is meaningless ornamentation.
Obama does not recognize the deep offense that would be given by the establishment of a Muslim shrine at Ground Zero. On this point he has precisely nothing to say. He does not make a case why the feelings of ordinary Americans should give way.
With great reliability Obama stands athwart the feelings of ordinary Americans. Indeed, he is a much more ardent defender of the faith of Musims than he is of the United States, of its history or of its people. Obama’s defense of the mosque at Ground Zero highlights his adversarial stance and is thus a particularly valuable addition to the record.
UPDATE: Debra Burlingame responds to Obama’s statement.
ONE MORE POINT: Bill Kristol rejects Obama’s assertion that we have been “traumati[zed]” by 9/11 and are the victims of understandable emotions that need to be transcended. At the same time Obama manages to be both patronizing and obtuse.