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Obama didn't JUST defend the RIGHT to build the "Mosque"...

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liberalpragmatist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-14-10 09:19 PM
Original message
Obama didn't JUST defend the RIGHT to build the "Mosque"...
... with his off-hand comments today, many are now criticizing the president for backtracking. Their argument is that it's all well and good to support the "right" to build at the site, but since many of the critics, including Palin, concede the "right," that really isn't the issue.

I agree with the criticism up to a point: I think the president's words today were unfortunate, not because they were inconsistent with what he said yesterday, but because they were so pedestrian as to immediately stoke media controversy and diminish the impact of last night's speech.

However, I think it's important that we look at Obama's Iftar address again. What made the speech so powerful wasn't that he specifically endorsed the construction of the community center in Lower Manhattan. (You could argue that as president, it's not his place to wade into local land-use controversies.) Nor was the speech powerful solely because he endorsed the "right" to build at the site. What made the speech powerful was that it was a very stirring affirmation of Muslim-Americans' place in American society.

Even while critics of the "Ground Zero Mosque" claim to support the organizers' technical right to build, in reality, they don't. Their argument that the center is somehow inappropriate not only conflates law-abiding Muslim-Americans with Al Qaeda, it contradicts the notion of equality before the law. If it's somehow inappropriate for Muslim-Americans alone to exercise their First Amendment rights, that is a denial of those rights, however much critics claim to recognize them.

Moreover, the subtext to all this is the notion that Muslim-Americans aren't equal citizens of this country and that their presence is suspect. Obama's speech was, to use Sarah Palin's coinage, a "refudiation" of those assertions. And absolutely nothing in today's statement undermines that.

From the speech:

Here at the White House, we have a tradition of hosting iftars that goes back several years, just as we host Christmas parties, seders, and Diwali celebrations. These events celebrate the role of faith in the lives of the American people. They remind us of the basic truth that we are all children of God, and we all draw strength and a sense of purpose from our beliefs.

These events are also an affirmation of who we are as Americans. Our Founders understood that the best way to honor the place of faith in the lives of our people was to protect their freedom to practice religion. In the Virginia Act for Establishing Religion Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote that "all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion." The First Amendment of our Constitution established the freedom of religion as the law of the land. And that right has been upheld ever since.

Indeed, over the course of our history, religion has flourished within our borders precisely because Americans have had the right to worship as they choose - including the right to believe in no religion at all. And it is a testament to the wisdom of our Founders that America remains deeply religious - a nation where the ability of peoples of different faiths to coexist peacefully and with mutual respect for one another stands in contrast to the religious conflict that persists around the globe.

That is not to say that religion is without controversy. 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 unshakeable. 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.

We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honor those who have led our response to that attack - from the firefighters who charged up smoke-filled staircases, to our troops who are serving in Afghanistan today. And let us always remember who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for. Our enemies respect no freedom of religion. Al Qaeda's cause is not Islam - it is a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders - these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion - and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.

That is who we are fighting against. And the reason that we will win this fight is not simply the strength of our arms - it is the strength of our values. The democracy that we uphold. The freedoms that we cherish. The laws that we apply without regard to race or religion; wealth or status. Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect to those who are different from us - a way of life that stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today.

In my inaugural address, I said that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth. That diversity can bring difficult debates. Indeed, past eras have seen controversies about the construction of synagogues or Catholic churches. But time and again, the American people have demonstrated that we can work through these issues, stay true to our core values, and emerge stronger for it. So it must be - and will be - today.

Tonight, we are reminded that Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity. And Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan--making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.

Like so many other immigrants, generations of Muslims came here to forge their future. They became farmers and merchants, worked in mills and factories, and helped lay the railroads. They helped build America. They founded the first Islamic center in New York City in the 1890s. They built America's first mosque on the prairie of North Dakota. And perhaps the oldest surviving mosque in America--still in use today--is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Today, our nation is strengthened by millions of Muslim Americans. They excel in every walk of life. Muslim American communities--including mosques in all fifty states--also serve their neighbors. Muslim Americans protect our communities as police, firefighters and first responders. Muslim American clerics have spoken out against terror and extremism, reaffirming that Islam teaches that one must save human life, not take it. And Muslim Americans serve with honor in our military. At next week's iftar at the Pentagon, tribute will be paid to three soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq and now rest among the heroes of Arlington National Cemetery.

These Muslim Americans died for the security that we depend upon, and the freedoms that we cherish. They are part of an unbroken line of Americans that stretches back to our Founding; Americans of all faiths who have served and sacrificed to extend the promise of America to new generations, and to ensure that what is exceptional about America is protected - our commitment to stay true to our core values, and our ability to perfect our union.

For in the end, we remain "one nation, under God, indivisible." And we can only achieve "liberty and justice for all" if we live by that one rule at the heart of every religion, including Islam--that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.


Thank you all for being here, and I wish you a blessed Ramadan. And with that, let's eat.
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sandnsea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-14-10 09:24 PM
Response to Original message
1. The government can't advocate for a specific religion
or specific place of worship. That was the intent of today's clarification.

Per Bill Burton:

"Just to be clear, the President is not backing off in any way from the comments he made last night.
It is not his role as President to pass judgment on every local project.

"But it is his responsibility to stand up for the Constitutional principle of religious freedom and equal treatment for all Americans.
What he said last night, and reaffirmed today, is that If a church, a synagogue or a Hindu temple can be built on a site, you simply cannot deny that right to those who want to build a Mosque.

"The World Trade Center site is hallowed ground, where 3000 Americans-Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims were the victims of a cold-blooded massacre. We are still at war with the small band of terrorists who planned and executed that attack.
But that does not give government the right to deny law-abiding Americans of one faith the same rights you would accord anyone else."
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S_E_Fudd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-15-10 05:47 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. It was tone deaf...
He should have said nothing. Nuance doesn't fly in this political environment. He made a great statement with his support in the initial statement. Finally got people on the left praising him for taking an unambiguous stand on something...and then he immediately undercuts it with his second statement.

Burton is technically correct in his defense of Obama's statements, but for that to resonate you have to assume the average person is going to understand the nuance...and they don't.

Just very frustrating because this is what he always does...

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CTLawGuy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-15-10 08:43 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. to have no nuance...
now THAT would make Obama "just like Bush".
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Rosa Luxemburg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-15-10 12:07 AM
Response to Original message
2. OK it's done let's move on
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704wipes Donating Member (966 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-15-10 09:07 PM
Response to Original message
5. Democrats support property rights; you own it - you can build on it
Edited on Sun Aug-15-10 09:08 PM by 704wipes
as long as it meets any zoning tests.

If the GOP wants to revere this site, why don't they fucking BUY it.
hell, they buy everything else. elections, judges, prosecutors, coroners ... ...
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