President Obama made his support for the "ground zero mosque" clear last night at the White House Iftar dinner, directly addressing the issue and reaffirming that (duh?) of course the President of the United States supports religious freedom. He went almost full Bloomberg, but was a bit more careful:
Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities — particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.
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 unshakable. 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.
On Islam, he said:
"Our enemies respect no freedom of religion. Al Qaeda's cause is not Islam — it is a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders — these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion."
It was a well-played and moving speech, respecting the sensitivity of the issue while making his firm support for the mosque's construction clear, already earning the ire of Representative Peter King, who accused Obama of caving to "political correctness." The speech also sparked the Post headline, "Allah Right By Me!" And if that's not religious tolerance, what is? The full text is available here, or check out the video below!