Obama on Ground Zero Islamic Center: ‘Our Commitment to Religious Freedom Must be Unshakeable’

August 14, 2010

(ChattahBox)—President Obama stood tall for religious freedom at the annual White House iftar dinner last night, when he addressed the controversy over the Islamic center to be built near Ground Zero. With a few well chosen and eloquent words, Obama reminded us all what America stands for. We stand for freedom, real freedom, not the warped tea party version. Even when it isn’t popular and becomes a cause celebre for bigots and political opportunists, our enduring constitutional principles ensures that our inalienable rights are not subject to the whims of popular opinion. To put it more simply, our founders ensured that our freedoms were not dependent upon the self-serving demagoguery of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. “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, said President Obama.

While recognizing the sensibilities of New Yorkers and all Americans with respect to the “hallowed ground” of Ground Zero, the President expressed his belief in religious freedom for all religions, not just the popular ones:

“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.”

Obama recognized the bravery of the 9/11 responders and remembered our lost loved ones, during his remarks. He also reminded us who and what we were fighting against, al-Qaeda terrorists perverting the Muslim faith and not Islam:

“We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honor those who led the 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 also remember who we’re fighting against, and what we’re fighting for. Our enemies respect no religious freedom. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam — it’s a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders — they’re terrorists who murder innocent men and 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.”

The President told the assembled guests at the dinner marking the end of the daily Ramadan fast, that we will win our battle against al-Qaeda with our values and not our might:

“So that’s who we’re 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, or wealth, or status. Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect towards those who are different from us — and that way of life, that quintessentially American creed, stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today.”

American presidents have been honoring the beginning of Ramadan, since the time of Thomas Jefferson. And the tradition of White House iftar dinners was continued during the Bush administration.

Obama’s remarks showed faith in Americans to eventually do what’s right and stay true to our values, whatever controversy arises over difficult issues, such as the building of an Islamic community center two blocks away from Ground Zero.

“But time and again, the American people have demonstrated that we can work through these issues, and stay true to our core values, and emerge stronger for it. So it must be — and will be — today.”

Amen to that.

The entire transcript of Obama’s Ground Zero Mosque speech can be found here.

Photo Source: White House Flickr


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