Local, National Leaders Weigh In On Obama's Comments

NEW YORK (CBS 2/AP) — The White House responded Monday to a firestorm of criticism ignited by President Obama’s remarks about building a mosque near Ground Zero. Critics say he’s butting into a local issue he should have stayed out of.

While the White House said Monday that politics wasn’t a factor in the President remarks, what he said has certainly become politicized.

“This is America,” Mr. Obama said. “Our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”

He was taking a stand on the building of a mosque and Islamic cultural center two blocks from the World Trade Center site, an issue the White House had previously avoided.

“As a citizen and as president, I believe Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country, and 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,” he said over the weekend.

But then, a day later, the President seemed to equivocate, commenting that while Muslims have the right to build a mosque, he wasn’t necessarily suggesting they should – and that set the political airwaves on fire:

“He can’t be changing his position from day-to-day on an issue which does go to our constitution,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY).

“This wouldn’t be a controversy if it was a proposal to build a synagogue or a church,” said Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid broke ranks with the President and said he believes the mosque should not be built near Ground Zero.

In a statement, Reid said the first amendment protects freedom of religion and he respects that, but the mosque should be built somewhere else.

“I think [his comments] tell you that he has a very disdainful view of the American people,” said Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

“The White House, the administration, the President himself seem to be disconnected from the mainstream of America,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

According to recent polls, nearly two thirds of Americans are against the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.” And, with mid-term elections looming, Republicans see the President’s stand on this very unpopular issue as yet more ammunition to take seats from the Democrats, but others say there are bigger issues at hand.

“I can’t imagine that any American, given the challenges facing this country, is going to vote based on what he said about the mosque,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie accused Democrats and Republicans of politicizing the issue, but declined to take a position on the mosque.

Adding more fuel to the fire, the leader of Hamas said Sunday that Muslims “have to build” a mosque near Ground Zero.

Mahmoud al-Zahar said Muslims “have to build everywhere” so that followers can pray, just like Christians and Jews build their places of worship.

Al-Zahar spoke Sunday on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on WABC-AM. He is a co-founder of Hamas and its chief on the Gaza Strip.

Sen. Chuck Schumer saids Al-Zahar’s comments don’t carry any weight because Hamas is a terrorist organization. Schumer hasn’t taken a stand on the mosque.

Rep. King, who opposes the mosque, said he won’t respond to Hamas.

The mosque is a project of the Cordoba Initiative, an advocacy group that claims to promote improved relations between Islam and the West. It didn’t respond to Al-Zahar’s comments.

(TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (44)
  1. elabbasa says:

    THANK YOU MR. PRESIDENT OBAMA,I do understand Pastor Terry Jone’s openion. He wants to express his anger and BURN not LEARN. He has no Idea about the tolerance of Islam and don’t differenciate between Islam itself and some radicals like him with Islamic names and IDs. The idea saying that Quran teaches violence and cruelity is completely wrong, because the Holly Books are from same source (ONE GOD), message to humanity in different languges to different nations on different times and situations!!!!!!!! The message is to beleive in God the creator. So Islam is the same religion carried by all Messangers and Prophets, to human beings.
    Allah says in Holly Quran:
    “How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you [back] to life, and then to Him you will be returned.”
    “Mix not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth written in your Scriptures, the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] while you know (the truth) “.
    “Abraham instructed his sons [to do the same] and [so did] Jacob, [saying], “O my sons, indeed Allah has chosen for you this religion, so do not die except while you are Muslims.”
    “When death appeared before Jacob? Behold, he said to his sons: “What will ye worship after me?” They said: “We shall worship Thy god and the god of thy fathers, of Abraham, Isma’il and Isaac,- the one (True) Allah: To Him we bow (in Islam).”
    “Remember when the angels said: “O Maryam (Mary)! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings i.e. ‘Iesa (Jesus) the son of Maryam from Him, his name will be the Messiah ‘Iesa (Jesus), the son of Maryam , held in honour in this world and lifeafter.”
    Such praising and honour expressed to Mary the Virgin and Jesus not to be burnt.It will not harm Islam but hurting Pastor Terry Jones himself being exposed to the media.
    “Do not be grieved, [O Muhammad], by those who hasten into disbelief. Indeed, they will never harm Allah at all. Allah intends that He should give them no share in the Hereafter, and for them is a great punishment.”
    “Everyone is going to taste death, and We shall make a trial of you with evil and with good, and to Us you will be returned “Allah says.
    God Bless beleivers who planned to build Community Cultural Center for all American citizens with prayer to worship God and ask forgiveness for the victims of Ground Zero of different nations and ages. Also to pave the way for doubtful disbeleivers to LEARN not BURN the Holly Books (Godspell).

  2. sim says:

    Long live mr president.Thats the promise u made to the muslim world,we Americans need peace and we need to unit the world and live exemplary.Lets allow them to build their Mosque and warn them over those that use Islam as an Umbrella to act in inhuman way.We dont need other wars but to live in peace and unity

  3. RBC says:

    Remember Ben Lauden. He lived here and went to college here in the US. He went back to his country and thus 9/11 evolved. Now, President Barrack Obama tells us it is okay to have a mosque on ground zero or even close to it. This is sacred ground. Come on Americans, we gave Ben Lauden his rights and look what happened. Are we going to allow this Mosque to be built. Wake up. As Americans we need to come together and stop being dictated to and take back our rights as Americans.

  4. sameh says:

    Dear friends in America
    Peace be upon you
    I want you to live with Muslims, they claim to peace rather than terror
    But the teachings of the Islamic religion forbid to build churches and temples and the teachings must be followed

    Does your religion forbid the building of mosques on Your Land

  5. NM says:

    There are already over 30 mosques in Manhattan alone, it is BS, they have plenty of places to pray. They don’t need this one.

  6. Karina Maleski says:

    I do not think that when the U.S. Constitution was written the Founding Fathers could have ever imagined a situation such as this one. I am sure they would have been heartbroken if they had known someday their words would be used to support the rights of individuals who failed to acknowledge the sensitivities they are so selfishly trampling on. This is an especially unique situation in which the words “freedom of religion” should not be taken so literally by politicians and certainly be put in the right context. The 9/11 hijackers and assorted terrorist groups were and are not in favor of freedom of religion because they are interested in imposing their own. But as others have already mentioned, this is not as much a matter of freedom of religion, but more a matter of location.

  7. Lynn says:

    I don’t care that they practice Islam in the US….that is their religious freedom. HOWEVER…….building a mosque anywhere within a 10 mile radius is an affront to the American people and the families/friends who were lost at ground zero. Find someplace else…………sell your property/donate it whatever.
    Building a mosque there is akin to allowing a Shinto or Buddhist temple to be built at Pearl Harbor.

  8. Dee says:

    It is the president’s job to advance the law of the land. President Obama’s statements accurately reflect the principles advanced by the founding fathers. The president did not state whether he personally feels near- ground zero is an ideal location for a Mosque—he did not express a recommendation, he merely stated the law of the land.
    This ongoing witch hunt and tendency to deliberately misconstrue every statement President Obama makes for political gains is getting old, and it reaffirms my belief that the opposing cutthroats can’t be trusted any more today than they could November 2008.

  9. david says:

    Mahmoud al-Zahar said Muslims “have to build everywhere” so that followers can pray, just like Christians and Jews build their places of worship.

    So I guess it would be OK with Mr. al-Zahar if I wanted to build a synagogue in Mecca, right?

    1. anwar shariff says:

      all folks not 2 bright there r plenty of churches and synagogues n muslim countries

  10. Stevie says:

    its gonna be scary when he doesnt get voted out…..due to all the muslims in america now…..the american people have really dropped the ball on this one. lol

  11. A Canadian says:

    What happened to you americans? You used to be tough. Its heartbreaking that the towers were knocked down….and its just as heartbreaking that your president just spat on the ashes. If i was american and had Family in the sept 11th MUSLIM attack (not terrorist) …im pretty sure id be dawning the v for vendetta mask….and well we know how that turned out. lol

    1. Franky Nodots says:

      Canadians – let the grownups handle the grownup decisions. Keep out of it.

      1. Mario says:

        grown ups?? where??? Grownups dont have debt. lol there responsible with there money. so when america does that….ill then call them grownups. lol

  12. Veronica says:

    Correction to my statement. I meant to say: Yeah, they have the right to buikd it. Sorry I l left off the last part of the sentence. Unfortunately, without the last part of the sentence, statement has a whole different meaning.

  13. Veronica says:

    If this mosque is built near Groung Zero, what’s stopping some American radical from blowing it up? Nothing. Then we’ll have some BIG probkems. Yeah they have the right. But it’s not the RIGHT thing to do. For the sake of peace, please build it elsewhere. Otherwise they may as well put a bullseye on it.

  14. Gee says:

    isnt america a christian based country? why is a president even touching those religious issues? and doesnt your money say “in god we trust” soon obama will change it to “in muhammad we trust” lol seriously americans…im canadian and love america…..lots of muslims are moving here due to…well canada lets anyone in cause there idiots and they worry about our population first….and well take it from me….u dont want what there bringin. lol i used to love my city….now only half of windsor speaks english it seems (which makes it socially awkward). and well….i just feel bad for the women who are forced to wear full night gowns with head peices in 100 degree heat…..they claim its by there free choice……as they walk 5 feet behind there angry husbands. lol (which by the way they have to do)

  15. warren colvin says:

    I agree with what the President said, but not the way he said it…he definitely came off as being wishy washy. I think that technically Muslims should be allowed to build a Mosque wherever they want, according to building permits and zoning and such. However, in this case, the building of a Mosque so close to what is considered a National Disaster is just not the right and moral thing to do. Those who want to build the mosque should take a look at what other people are saying and realize that continuuing on will just upset too many people…besides it being a target for every anti-muslim nutjob out there. So be the bigger mind and build the mosque somewhere else. Donate the property as a museum or something else related to 9/11 with a muslim friendly slant to it.

  16. DADGUM says:

    this so called president has been out of touch with the real Americans since before he stole the office

    1. J. Q. Public says:

      Same as all presidents before this one.

  17. Margaret says:

    I believe Mr. Obama is wrong, wrong, wrong!

  18. Marie says:

    why has this peaceful mosque emplyed a radical dubious imam?
    why do they insist on the grand opening of their peaceful mosque to be on 9/11/2011?
    why do they not reveal funding sources and why do they support hamas?
    am I missing something?
    Isn’t this what homelans security is all about?
    why fast tract this mosque for approval but deny St Nicholas church, damaged in 911 attack, from going foward due to red tap and false zoning issues?
    200+ mosques in nyc and still need this one? Will not even consider relocation?

  19. Get Real says:

    If this is all about sensitives and hallowed ground then you should also be as critical and vocal about plans to build new buildings on the very spot where the twin towers came down! Have you forgotten the 3,000 people that died there? and now you want to build skyscrapers on top of that ground? When it comes to money and the almighty dollar, there’s no concern for the hallowed ground or sensitives is there?! Speaking of sensitives, why aren’t the first responders to ground zero not show compassion and given monetary aid after all the toxic fumes and materials they came in contact with? Where are these sensitivities everyone speaks about?

    What Obama has said is expected of any President. All this nonsense talk about Obama not upholding the constitution from people on the Right like Palin and co, but now given a actual situation where the Constitution applies they want the President to NOT uphold the Constitution that he took oath on??! Are there no rational minded people in this country?

    Lastly, the community center is not at ground zero, it is at least 2 blocks away from the actual ground zero. It’s a Burlington Coat Factory building that will be made into a community center, this is not some kind of comic book castle where its going to brainwash people create a “Islamic Republic of America”….get your heads looked!

  20. Lincoln says:

    Mosque, church, synagogue and temple are place of worship. Worship to one God that we all called by different names! Bulling a mosque for American Muslims in their own country shouldn’t be dictated by tragedy of 911because there were lots of Muslims that were also a victim of this tragic incident. If there is more land or building to be converted, lets build Church, Synagogue and Temple for all the religion on this hearth surrounding 911 area!
    911 was an act of terrorist who did not like American government or American role in some issues, they do not care whether American citizen were Muslims or not, they are senseless human being who interpret Qua-ran to their understanding.

  21. sam says:


  22. Dino says:

    It seems even the Secret Service couldn’t prevent the president (small “P” intended) from shooting himself in the foot. He should take Bloomberg with him when he retires to Kenya.

  23. lordpet says:

    Why don’t you armchair experts read up on what frightens you so much


    1. stop islam says:

      Thanks for spreaking the Islamic propoganda.

  24. Marie says:




  25. ABK says:


  26. Jerry says:

    Even a fast food restaurant would reconsider public opinion, here, the demand for this mosque, at this location ,obviously is intended to be a Islamic trophy on hallowed ground.

    Is Obama a Muslim first as his book “Audicity of Hope” implied?

    I believe uncertain citizens are nor convinced!

  27. Jerry says:

    Case dismissed, Mr Barack HUSSEIN Obama

  28. DanTe says:

    Hamas is not the only terrorist organization backing a mosque near Ground Zero. The fascist bleeding heart liberals that love to dictate what other people can or cannot do, are also insisting on a mosque being built there.

  29. AM says:

    Attempts to equate Islam with terrorism continue unabated. This story is just a drop in the bucket. Why people do not realize that Islam is a divine religion, one of three. It calls for the worship of the same God, unity, peace and harmoney between people. Bad apples exist in every race, creed and color. Muslims have been victimized by terrorist more than any other people. The stooges who try to use Islam to further their lust for blood are not part of Islam and can not be accepted. The Islamic Cultural Center in New York will be a symbol of unity for mankind and will bring spiritual comfort to all the victims of 9/11 amongst whom were many Muslims. May God rest their souls- every single one of them. Let us all stand united against terrorists who have no religion or nation and are a danger to humanity at large and snub those who continue to swim in muddy waters againt this divine faith. We should not forget that Islam was the beacon which connected western civilization with its roots. It kept alive human achivements through enlightnment and innovations which form the basis for science and technology today.

  30. gab amodu says:

    No way please. It is not possible to build a mosque near ground zero. It is a slap and insults on Americas for such a things to happen. Can they allow Christians to build a church in Mecca? or in Iran, Turkey, Syria etc. Please it should not be permitted.

  31. Sara Burt says:

    If they are really interested in promoting improved relations between Islam and the West they could gain much good will by acknowledging the sensitivities of those against it, whether they agree or not, and finding a new site to locate the mosque.

    On another topic, the AP headline is misleading and reeks of sensational journalism.

    1. William Randolph Hearst. says:

      That’s how the AP rolls.

  32. frank says:

    the poor use of words in this article’s headline may stir up hate and prejudice.
    it looks as if the mosque in question is getting money from a terrorist organization.

    furthermore, it isn’t very relevant to be one of the highlighted news articles on yahoo! world news. any muslim, extremist or not would probably support the building of a mosque. likewise, any christian, extremist or not would logically support the building of a church.

  33. malsikcuf says:

    By allowing the mosque to be built near ground zero, just show how naive the Pesident is. It is a clear sign of victory for Islam on the West. It is just too disgusting to know that the American President is so naive or maybe deep down in his heart, BARRAK HUSSAIN OBAMA is a Muslim. Therefore he supports it. It’s time the American people wake up. Would they allow the West to build church in Mecca or Kabul?

    1. TTC says:

      I love how everyone likes to turn the table, “Would they allow the West to build church in Mecca or Kabul,” no they wouldn’t because they don’t have the freedoms that we allow in the USA. Read the Constitution, we do have one.

    2. Ed says:

      That’s the point, We are the ones who have freedom of religion. We can’t selectively apply our principles of freedom. Are you suggesting we should throw our liberties out the window in order to be more like intolerant societies?

  34. kj says:

    To Mahmoud al-Zahar,

    So how many Churches and Synagogues are you building in your city?

  35. Marena Chen says:

    One fine morning, when you least expect it, you americans will awaken from your stupor in the Islamic Republic of America…mark my words…!!!

    1. TTC says:

      what a moronic statement

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