GOP Response to Obama’s Support of Islamic Center: Hysteria, Bigotry
August 15, 2010
(ChattahBox)— President Obama spoke in favor of religious freedom and tolerance at the White House iftar dinner Friday evening, against the backdrop of a vitriolic national conversation, fueled by the right-wing, opposing the building of an Islamic community center two blocks away from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was one of President Obama’s finest moments as a leader. How did the right-wing respond? With more bigotry and incendiary demagoguing. And with a majority of Americans apparently agreeing with the likes of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, namely that a Mosque so close to Ground Zero tramples on the sensitivities of the families of the 9/11 victims, we can expect Republicans to continue to glom onto this divisive issue through the mid-terms.
President Obama couldn’t have been clearer in his speech Friday night, in his support for religious freedom for all religions, including Islam.
“But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same 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. 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 that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.”
The right-wing responded with their typical hysteria:
“The debate over the proposed Islamic center in Manhattan only intensified on Saturday, as the conservative blogosphere lighted up with criticism of Mr. Obama, and leading Republicans — including Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker; Representative John A. Boehner, the House minority leader; and Representative Peter T. King of New York — forcefully rejected the president’s stance.”
“Mr. Gingrich accused the president of “pandering to radical Islam.” Mr. Boehner said the decision to build a mosque so close to ground zero was “deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it.” And Mr. King flatly said the president “is wrong,” adding that Mr. Obama had “caved in to political correctness.”’
Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post set the tone with its headline, “ALLAH RIGHT BY ME” Get it? Our secret Muslim President supports the Ground Zero Mosque.
And the traditional media was equally as silly, characterizing a brief response by Obama to a question asked by CNN’s Ed Henry, as a “walkback,” from his original remarks, due to political pressure. Jeebus, after eloquently saying “religious freedom must be unshakeable,” the President is already issuing corrections and elaborations? No, not in the least.
Ed Henry asked Obama a question about the “wisdom” of constructing an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan, to which the President responded:
“I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” Mr. Obama said. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.”
That’s it. And with those few words, the media and the Sunday talk shows were filled with discussions about President Obama already walking back his defense of religious liberty.
The White House issued a statement, saying President Obama was “not backing off in any way” from his spirited remarks Friday night in support of freedom of religion.
And here we are. The Republicans see the “Ground Zero Mosque,” as a divisive wedge issue that aligns nicely with the neoconservative attacks against Obama as being weak on defense. And the GOP can use its religious bigotry against Islam to further insinuate that Obama is a secret Muslim.
“Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, also held annual Ramadan celebrations and frequently took pains to draw a distinction between Al Qaeda and Islam, as Mr. Obama did Friday night. But Mr. Obama, unlike Mr. Bush, has been accused of being a closet Muslim (he is Christian) and faced attacks from the right that he is soft on terrorists.”
At a time when the nation is already angry over a bad economy and joblessness, Republicans have resorted to political scapegoating to ensure voters arrive at the polls in November in a boiling rage. The GOP has already offered up undocumented immigrants, (illegals) “anchor babies” and even “terror babies” to the angry populace that has unleashed a frightening tribal nativism and racial animus.
It’s easy to appeal to the worst in human nature and exploit it for political gain, as the GOP is doing.
Politico describes the GOP’s political opportunism in more simpler terms. It’s all in the poll numbers:
“But the attacks on what is now nationally known as the “Ground Zero mosque” — it is a few blocks north of the site — also stand in for a broader turn in the cultural politics of the right, in which some of the social issues that served as the emotional core of candidates’ appeals have lost their power. A recent CNN poll showing that 68 percent of Americans oppose the construction of the mosque also found that about half think there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. No political genius is required to decide which issue to run on.”
On Friday night, we heard from a real leader, not a rabble-rouser.