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Ground Zero mosque row heats up
Washington, Aug 18 (Agencies):
Published on 18 Aug. 2010 10:19 PM IST
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The row over a proposed mosque in New York’s lower Manhattan is getting increasingly heated.
US president Barack Obama is under fire for confusing his message over the controversial plan to build an Islamic community centre two blocks from Ground Zero. It is dividing political parties and US commentators and opponents are threatening to hold a large rally against the mosque on September 11.
At Washington’s National Press Club an interfaith press conference supporting freedom of religion and plans for a mosque near Ground Zero was disrupted by a heckler. Rick Fox, a prominent Florida businessman campaigning to be that state’s governor, has also launched a no holds barred attack.
“Barack Obama says building a mosque at Ground Zero is about tolerance; he’s wrong, it’s about truth,” he said. “The truth: Muslim fanatics murdered thousands of innocent Americans on 9/11.”
Former president George W Bush has declined to comment, but Sarah Palin was not shy.
“This hurts. This is a slap to those innocent victims who were murdered that day on 9/11,” she said.
Mr Obama continues to come under fire for appearing to support the rights of Muslims to build it, then appearing to walk away from it.
“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there,” he said.
In November, when Mr Obama and other Democrats were fighting to hang onto control of Congress, the issue earned him a public scolding from Mahdi Bray of the Muslim American Society. “Do you really want to be the president that bad? Do you really want to control the House and the Senate that bad that you want to do it off the back of the rights of Muslims?” she said.
In New York the divisions are particularly stark. Debra Burlingame, who lost her brother in the 9/11 attacks, is adamant the Islamic cultural centre will never be built.
“Saudi Arabia has partnered with this Imam on other programs. Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest funders of 9/11 where 15 of the hijackers came from, this man and this mega mosque will never happen there, no,” she said.
But New York Daily News columnist Michael Daly says however insensitive the proposal maybe, the US constitution must be upheld.
“If we try to say that religious freedom ends two blocks from Ground Zero we’re only playing into Osama bin Laden’s hands,” he said.
A spokesman for Mr Obama says he is happy that America’s thriving democracy is producing a vigorous debate.
Opponents are vowing to hold a protest rally at the proposed mosque site on the anniversary of September 11.
But ahead of that, political operatives are scrambling for a pragmatic fix to take the heat out of the escalating row.
New York’s governor has hinted that he wants a deal and that he might offer an alternative site for the $100 million project, but it is far from clear if the mosque’s developers would accept it.

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