Grand Mosque
Grand Mosque (stock photo)

Controversy and arguments surround the proposed Islamic mosque and community center that is planned to be built three blocks from Ground Zero. With elections looming and so much on his plate between the war in Iraq and the health care plan, it came as a surprise to some when President Obama announced Friday that he fully supported the center being built.

According to the President, “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country.” He went on to point out that as long as they were following laws and ordinances, they had every right to build their place of worship in lower Manhattan.

The announcement was made Friday during the Iftar dinner at the White House to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

 Supporters, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have been praising the President’s remarks. Bloomberg compared it to a letter from George Washington, and touted his pride in the President’s support of religious freedom.

But the critics are speaking just as loudly. 

 Rep Peter King has stated that Obama was wrong and the creation of the mosque is “insensitive and uncaring.” According to King, Obama should have urged the Muslim leaders to move the mosque away from Ground Zero.

Obama made it clear he was not only speaking as the President, but also as a U.S. citizen. He brought up the pain and heartache of the attacks on September 11, 2001 and used them in his speech. He reminded people that what sets America apart is the tolerance and acceptance of differences between people. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable,” he said.

At the moment, almost 70%  of those polled oppose the plans for the mosque. Some of those are families of the 9/11 victims.

Many Muslim Americans were moved by the President’s speech and were thrilled to hear that they have his support in this country, which is their home. But others found it surprising that he put his opinion into the controversy.