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The politics of the NYC mosque

August 17, 2010

The controversial mosque envisioned for a location near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan may become one of those symbolic hot buttons — like flag-burning — that plays prominently in the run-up to Senate and House elections in November.

The issue is already making for some strange bedfellows. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has come out against the mosque, while US Senator Jack Reed offered this mixed response during an interview with Bret Baier on Fox News Sunday:

BAIER:  Do you think the mosque should be there?

REED:  I think it’s a decision — I know it’s a decision that the local authorities have made.  It can be there if it is — operates to foster dialogue, to recognize the commonality of religious principles.

But it can’t be there, and I don’t think it should be allowed to be there, if it’s going to be some type of way to undercut the truth, the reality, of 9/11.  I think the local officials have made the decision that it’s going to operate as a — as a place of religion discourse, not of argumentation.

Last Saturday, Nate Silver noted support for President Obama on the issue from some unlikely sources:

President Obama’s decision last night to defend the right of a group of Muslim businessmen and religious leaders to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center near the Ground Zero site has won praise from some of his harshest critics — and criticism from Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, who seem to be in a competition to see who can stoke the most outrage among the Republican base. Indeed, it was a bold decision — Obama could have stayed out of what is ostensibly a local matter. But a careful evaluation of the polls reveals it to be less politically risky than it might at first appear . . . .

Meanwhile, CD1 Republican John Loughlin appears to be the only RI politician who has offered an unsolicited view on the mosque, as he did with a news release on Sunday:

“I disagree with President Obama’s support of the construction of a mosque at the site where thousands of Americans were killed by radical Islamic jihadists,” said John Loughlin, Republican candidate for Congress in RI-1.

“All of us support the right of people to practice their religion. No one would deny that to Muslims or any other faith. That is not at issue here. Out of deference to the wishes of the families of the deceased, and to deny extremists fodder for their anti-American propaganda, we should not construct a mosque at Ground Zero. I believe we should look
for an alternative location that would permit Muslims a new place to worship while also respecting the memories of the fallen.”

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