Tuesday, August 24, 2010

President Obama and the Ground Zero Mosque

The controversy that the Ground Zero Mosque has created has brought to light many things that should receive attention, namely Imam Rauf's past statements and President Obama's fumbling maneuvers to try to position himself on every side of the issue.

Some Muslims it seems believe the opposition is based solely on Islamophobia when this is far from the truth. The opposition is around two factors mostly. The first is the mere placement of the mosque, two blocks from Ground Zero, the second is the character of Imam Rauf. In the preceding weeks it has been discussed that Rauf has a record that is far from moderate, saying two weeks after 9/11 that the US was complicit in the attacks and that Osama bin Laden was made in America. He also has refused to denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization. It is these revelations along with the sheer insensitivity of the placement that have created such opposition. As Americans we are always asked to be tolerant and show sensitivity to others, a trait we boldly embrace, but why cannot the Muslims who seek to build this show the same sensitivity? They do not need to build it there. This is an action intended to be provocative, not build bridges. The building of this establishment will not in fact build bridges, but rather create divisions and create a backlash against Muslims.

The White House initially chose not to get involved in this controversy, but the President last Friday chose to finally wade into the fray at a Ramadan dinner. Whereas he did say he supported it legally, he did not comment on the wisdom of the project. Rather he chose to back pedal on his comments the next morning though. The problem and real irony here though is that for being supposedly so eloquent President Obama spends a lot of time clarifying his statements and secondly, it would have been braver of him if he had spoken on the wisdom of it at the dinner instead of the next day in Florida. This would have been an opportune moment  to make the feelings of the American people known and explain to the audience that building it elsewhere would prove better for all. The President failed at this though, due to the fact that that might offend the audience at the dinner and perhaps cause them to not adulate over him.    

It can be said though that Americans, even after 9/11, showed no ill will towards Muslims overall. President Bush made it clear that we were not at war with Islam as a religion, but extremists. The fact remains though that it is hallowed ground and should be respected as such. If they built it six blocks away there would be no issue, but the proximity is what is causing the controversy. This is not a freedom issue when it comes down to it, but one of sensitivity.