*It seems that the president is having second thoughts about his endorsement of Islamic community center and mosque to be built near ground zero. Well, sort of.
Mr. Obama commented during a trip to Florida, where he expanded on a Friday night White House speech asserting that Muslims have the same right to freedom of religion as everyone else in America:
“My intention was to simply let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country, we treat everybody equally in accordance with the law. Regardless of race. Regardless of religion. I was not commenting on and will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country’s about and I think it’s very important that as difficult as some of these issues are, we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who has been a strong supporter of the mosque, welcomed Obama’s White House speech as a “clarion defense of the freedom of religion.”
Obama’s Friday comment was taken by some to mean that he strongly supports the building of an Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, something he never said.
Speaking to a gathering at the White House Friday evening to observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Obama said that he believes “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.”
Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was killed at the World Trade Center, has said the president’s comments show “a gross lack of sensitivity to the 9/11 families and to the people who were lost.”
“Barack Obama has abandoned America at the place where America’s heart was broken nine years ago, and where her true values were on display for all to see,” said Debra Burlingame, a spokeswoman for some Sept. 11 victims’ families and the sister of one of the pilots killed in the attacks.
Building the mosque at ground zero, she said, “is a deliberately provocative act that will precipitate more bloodshed in the name of Allah.”
Obama surely knew that his words Friday night at a White House dinner marking the holy month of Ramadan not only would make headlines, but be heard by Muslims worldwide. The president has made it a point to reach out to the global Muslim community, and the more than 100 guests at Friday’s dinner included ambassadors and officials from numerous nations where Islam is observed, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
When Obama first took office, Muslim leaders had high hopes from his presidency, even as he kept his distance from them during the campaign and rebutted false rumors that he was Muslim.
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