President Obama last night strongly backed the Ground Zero mosque while celebrating Ramadan with Muslim Americans at the White House -- saying it shows that the nation's commitment to religious tolerance is "unshakeable."
"Let me be clear. As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," Obama said to applause in his first comments on the controversy. "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.
Rep. Peter King (R-LI), a leading mosque opponent, accused Obama of caving in to "political correctness. "President Obama is wrong," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. "It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero."
Entering the highly charged election-year debate, Obama surely knew that his words would not only make headlines in the U.S. but be heard by Muslims worldwide. The president has made it a point to reach out to the global Muslim community, and the over 100 guests at Friday's dinner in the State Dining Room included ambassadors and officials from numerous nations where Islam is observed, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
While his pronouncement concerning the mosque might find favor in the Muslim world, Obama's stance runs counter to the opinions of the majority of Americans, according to polls. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released this week found that nearly 70 percent of Americans opposed the mosque plan while just 29 percent approved.
Brookhaven, NY- George Demos, the Conservative Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in the First Congressional District of New York, today called on Governor Paterson to focus on rebuilding St. Nicholas Church, the only house of worship actually destroyed on September 11 and not the Ground Zero Mosque.
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