Obama backtracks over Ground Zero mosque after furious 9/11 families label him 'insensitive and uncaring'From the Daily Mail:
Barack Obama has backtracked over his support for plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero.
- Friday: 'Let me be clear: As a citizen and as President I believe that Muslims have the same right ... to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in Lower Manhattan'
- Saturday: 'I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there'
- Hamas: Muslims 'have to build everywhere' so they can pray like Christians and Jews
The U.S. President was hit by a furious backlash from victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks after he backed the highly controversial plans in a speech on Friday.
The proposed site for the 13-storey building is close to where almost 3,000 people died nine years ago after Muslim hijackers flew two jet airliners into the World Trade Center.
Mr Obama expressed his support for the mosque, which will replace a building damaged by the attacks, at a White House meal celebrating Ramadan.
President Barack Obama speaks in favour of the right to build a mosque close to Ground Zero at a White House dinner to mark the start of the Ramadan fast
In his speech on Friday, Mr Obama said: ‘Let me be clear: As a citizen and as President I believe that Muslims have the same right to practise their religion as everyone else in this country.
‘That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.’
But the next day he insisted he had not been commenting on the 'wisdom' of placing a mosque in such a symbolic place.
Challenged about his comments during a family trip to Florida at the weekend, the President said: 'I was not commenting and I 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.'
Mr Obama said that 'my intention was simply to let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion.'
Almost 3,000 people died on September 11, 2001, after Muslim hijackers flew two passenger planes into the centre's Twin Towers
The White House insisted Mr Obama was not backing away from his initial comments.
Spokesman Bill Burton said: 'What he said last night, and reaffirmed today, is that if a church, a synagogue or a Hindu temple can be built on a site, you simply cannot deny that right to those who want to build a mosque.'
He spoke as Islamist group Hamas today backed the mosque plan.
Hamas leader 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 in the U.S. He is a co-founder of Hamas and its chief on the Gaza Strip.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative advert against the proposed mosqueSenator Chuck Schumer says Al-Zahar's comments don't carry any weight because Hamas is a terrorist organization. Schumer hasn't taken a stand on the mosque.
Mr Obama was heavily criticised by a group representing the families of victims of the terrorist attack, who called the plan a ‘deliberately provocative act that will precipitate more bloodshed in the name of Allah’.
Debra Burlingame, a sister of a pilot killed when his plane was flown by a hijacker into the Pentagon and a spokesperson for victims’ families, said: ‘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.’
Peter King, a Republican congressman in New York, said the President had been wrong to back the plan, adding: ‘It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero.’
Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was killed at the World Trade Center, condemned the President for a 'gross lack of sensitivity to the 9/11 families and to the people who were lost'.
The proposal to build a mosque close to the site of the 2001 terrorist attack has aroused strong opinionsRepublican House Minority Leader John Boehner said the decision to build the mosque wasn't an issue of religious freedom, but a matter of respect.
'The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn't necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding,' he said.
New York Republican Congressman Peter King added: 'President Obama is wrong. It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero.'
Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Greene of Florida said: 'President Obama has this all wrong and I strongly oppose his support for building a mosque near Ground Zero especially since Islamic terrorists have bragged and celebrated destroying the Twin Towers and killing nearly 3,000 Americans.
'Freedom of religion might provide the right to build the mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero, but common sense and respect for those who lost their lives and loved ones gives sensible reason to build the mosque someplace else.'
Go read the comments. It's great to see so many Brits supporting the United States of America.