Then he failed to take his own advice and did weigh in on the subject. Without (he insists) commenting on the wisdom of the specific Manhattan mosque proposal, Mr. Obama said:
"Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country."Again, Mr. Obama was correct.
"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," he said. "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."
Building any house of worship these days, whether in Manhattan or in suburbia, is almost always controversial.
In the news, we hear mostly about protests regarding the construction of new mosques. Part of the reason for that is that Islam is growing rapidly in this country: Recent Asian immigrants brought their religions with them just as our European ancestors did. A lot of the newer arrivals from Asia are Muslim. There aren't a lot of mosques around but there are plenty of Christian churches already; thus, it should come as no surprise to anyone but the ignorant news media that a lot of new mosques will be proposed.
But whether mosque or synagogue or evangelical free church, the building of any new church on previously unconsecrated ground is going to honk off a significant portion of its would-be neighbors. Most will not belong to the new congregation -- but all will be affected by traffic and noise. The property will drop off the tax rolls -- and the rest of the community will have to make up the difference. And -- of course -- some won't like the newcomers, no matter who they are, no way and no how. It isn't just Muslims: What if wild-eyed Pastor Jorgensen (or Fr. Murphy or Rev. Billy Bob) wants to open a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter? I dare say it was ever thus in this country.
But keep this always in mind: This is America. We can have this debate. Muslims can and will overcome their neighbors' objections and build their mosques.
Try and build a church in Saudi Arabia and see what happens.
According to Wikipedia (footnotes removed):
Saudi Arabia allows Roman Catholics and Christians of other denominations to enter the country as foreign workers for temporary work, but does not allow them to practise their faith openly, and as a result Roman Catholics and Christians of other denominations generally only worship in secret within private homes. Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are prohibited. These include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols, and others.Note that we are not talking about the crazy Taliban, but rather our brave and gallant Saudi allies.
The Saudi Arabian Mutaween (Arabic: مطوعين), or Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (i.e., the religious police) prohibits the practice of any religion other than Islam. Conversion of a Muslim to another religion is considered apostasy, a crime punishable by death... if the accused does not recant. The Government does not permit non-Muslim clergy to enter the country for the purpose of conducting religious services.
In 2008, when the first Christian church opened in Qatar (a small chapel without bells or even visible crosses), there was talk that a Catholic church might also be permitted in Saudi Arabia. This Time magazine article (March 19, 2008) claimed, "Pope Benedict XVI is believed to have personally appealed to King Abdullah on the topic during the Saudi monarch's first ever visit to the Vatican last November."
There are 800,000 Catholics in Saudi Arabia because the Saudis import Indians and Filipinos to work for them -- but not one church.
So: How much Saudi money is in this proposal for the mosque near Ground Zero? (I have read that most mosque construction in this country winds up being subsidized by the Saudis in one way or another.) How about some reciprocity here? There are mosques and synagogues in Rome. A Christian can not set foot in Mecca.
Let's stop this bogus harping on American (and/or Western) "intolerance." The mosque will be built in Manhattan, probably right where the proposers want it. When can I expect to go to Mass in a cathedral in Riyadh?