August 15th, 2010
09:49 AM ET
8 years ago

New York lawmakers on different sides of 9/11 Islamic center

(CNN) - Two days after President Obama declared his support for a controversial proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of Ground Zero in Manhattan, two New York lawmakers sounded off on the merits of the project.

Republican Rep. Peter King represents a portion of western Long Island less than 20 miles from New York City; Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler represents part of Brooklyn and a slice of Manhattan that includes ground zero. In an interview Sunday on CNN's State of the Union, the congressmen differed on how they characterized the sensitivity of building a mosque near such hallowed ground.

"The fallacy is that al Qaeda attacked us. Islam did not attack us," Nadler told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

"It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit as opposed to Al Qaeda as the culprit," he added. "[…]Objecting to the mosque would be as objectionable if you wouldn't object to a church or synagogue in the same place because that's blaming all Islam and you can't blame an entire religion."

But King said "the attack was carried out in the name of Islam," and the fact that many families of 9/11 victims are opposed to the proposal should be enough of a reason to relocate it farther away from where the twin towers of the World Trade Center came down.

"The overwhelming majority of the 9/11 families are opposed to it, and they are good people, they are not bigoted, they are not biased ... These people-the wounds are just being torn apart for them now and they are heartbroken over this," King said. "And that is what I think the imam and the Muslim leadership should take this into account."

On Friday, Obama defended the planned community center, saying, "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country."

"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," the president added, speaking at a White House dinner marking the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Obama on Saturday told CNN Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry that that in defending the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near ground zero in a speech on Friday night, he was "not commenting on the wisdom" of the project. Instead, Obama said he was trying to uphold the broader principle that the government should treat "everyone equal, regardless" of religion.

His comments were seen as step back from the support he appeared to give the controversial project during a White House dinner on Friday, though a spokesman for the administration quickly moved to clarify the president's remarks.

Nadler praised Obama's original remarks on Friday.

"The United States was founded on the principle of religious liberty and tolerance, and it is equally important 234 years later that we uphold this principle," Nadler said in a statement released Friday after Obama's remarks.

King criticized Obama for nuance and said he wished the president had been clearer.

"All I can think is perhaps there was political pressure from people in his own party who urged him to walk back away from that on Saturday," King said.

"If the president was going to get into this, he should've been much more clear, much more precise and you can't be changing your position from day-to-day on an issue that does go to our constitution and it also goes to extreme sensitivities."

–CNN Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry contributed to this report

Filed under: Jerrold Nadler • New York • Peter King • Religion • State of the Union
soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. John

    Response to Will:
    What I think it's TERRIBLY TROUBLING is that When we finally go to war with the Iranians, the American people will have to question what side of the fence their Commander in Chief is truly on.

    August 15, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  2. reds & blues

    We are all at fault...It should be brilliantly crystal clear to all of us that Democrats and Republicans are " ONE & The SAME"

    We all need to take the jerseys & caps off and quit making this a two sporting team event. This two party system makes us all look like whiny little children to the rest of the world.

    Vote & vote & vote some more, until we clear the entire two party congress and administration out. That would provide real hope & change!

    August 15, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  3. aunt Bea and Opie

    Peter,Peter,the little teabag eater.This clown should just stfu.

    August 15, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. GOP in good standing

    As a paid up member, I apologise for these right wingnuts. GOD help us if they ever see power.

    August 15, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  5. WhatsinaName

    What if, for hypothesis sake, the land on which the two world trade towers stood was a private land and acquired by an Islamic group to build a huge community centre which included a mosque. What would be the reaction then??!! Haha.

    August 15, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  6. Li

    There is nothing wrong with clarifying the 14th Amendment towards citizenship. This was not an original law made by the founding fathers. I see no problem to this considering it was made back then in 1868 from the will of the people, and now the will of the people in present day want to be more specific about it. We lose 50 billion+ to illegals every year, and we have lost over 21,000 American lives to illegal immigrants. Please tell the families of those victims that you have no problem with the clarification, and that you intend to pay their share of the 50 billion.

    Peter in VA:

    "As a Christian, I am amazed that there is so much uproar and so much amnesia regarding this issue. Everyone wants the legacy of our forefathers to match their beliefs. If it were suggested that the 2nd amendment be modified to outlaw guns many would go crazy....but it's OK to change the 14th amendment to ban some from becoming citizens."

    August 15, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  7. Islam did not attack us

    both have good arguments: WOW that is refreshing to say

    and well, no shortage of strong opioniated posts here

    I understand both representative's points, I do not think an islam center should go so near 9/11 sight

    Islam is important is very underrepresented both interms of their national voice and physical presence.

    Do I want to hear the call to prayer through out a city like I do in Turkey or London, frankly no. But I understand it is like the church bells on sunday... and in its own way it is pretty, but no I don't. and definately NOT 5 times a day

    August 15, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  8. John

    Let them have it. We will have cameras rolling throughout the building. CIA should be handling the security of the building. Every single person that enters or visits this Mosque should be entered into systems and checked against the no-fly list and international warrants. Use it like bait.

    August 15, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  9. frogman

    Two questions that no one is asking. Where did all of money for this Islamic Center come from and why now? Why are the Muslims calling this the Cordoba Initiative? Is it just a coincidence that Cordoba was the first place Muslims built a Mosque on the site of a cathedral that they demolished shortly after their conquest of parts of Spain? Any defense of this project before convincing answers to these questions are offered is evidence of stupidity not open mindedness.

    August 15, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  10. ad

    @Steve..just as you have the common sense to differentiate between Aryan Nations and the Church, you should have the brains to differentiate between the terrorists and the Mosque. This is not a mosque for the terrorists. I am sure there are a lot of churches around the place where Martin Luther King was martyred, apart from the church at the national civil rights museum.

    Blind hatred will get us nowhere.


    August 15, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  11. Albertine

    I am very proud of the leadership that kept an even focus during all of this histrionic debating. The misinformation on this issue has been startling. People can pray where they see fit and government plays no role in that.

    What is being said about Muslims is same as people used to say about Germans, and before the the Irish and the Jews. There is always a boogie man in the form of a cultural group coming to get everyone. I wonder how many folks with abbreviated German surnames that were shortened during WWI or WWII to hide their heritage from being labeled the enemy are now leading the charge on this issue. And around and around we go. We are not as original as we think we are.

    O, and for all the folks trying to draw parallels to Pearl Harbor, there is a Japanese cultural center less than a mile from Pearl Harbor. It's called the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. Look it up. I really wish people would do their homework before repeating one liners over and over again.

    August 15, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  12. mike

    This Islamic Center will become a shrine that is visited by Muslims from all over the world to celebrate the killing of 3000 innocent people. The Palestinians partied in the streets when the buildings came down...HOW STUPID IS THE LEADERSHIP OF THIS COUNTRY? I am sick of all of this.

    August 15, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  13. Abdulameer

    The non-Moslem supporters of this mosque make the fundamental error of considering Islam to be a religion just like other religions. In fact, Islam is far more than a religion. It is also an ideology - supremacist, bigoted, aggressive, totalitarian and imperialist. Yusuf Qaradawi (the most influential Muslim cleric in the world today, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood) says: "Islam is not a religion in the common, distorted meaning of the word, confining its scope only to the private life of man. By saying that it is a complete way of life, we mean that it caters for all the fields of human existence. In fact, Islam provides guidance for all walks of life — individual and social, material and moral, economic and political, legal and cultural, national and international."
    Qaradawi is talking about Sharia law which all Moslems are supposed to follow. Sharia law, among other nasty things, requires the legal subordination of non-Moslems and women; it requires the death penalty for apostasy, blasphemy, homosexuality and a host of other sin/crimes. The most popular manual of Sharia law, Umdat al Salik, approved by the highest Islamic authorities of Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egpyt defines jihad this way: "Jihad means to make war on non-Muslims." What could be plainer than that?

    August 15, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  14. Fred

    Blaming all of Islam for the actions of misguided extremists who commit atrocities in the name of Islam.

    Over the years, there have been many delusional, misguided people who have, of their own accord, commited various atrocities in the name of Christianity (I am not talking about the atrocities commited by the Church itself) – does this mean that their actions were condoned by the Church itself? Does it mean every Christian in the world supports these atrocities? Of course not.

    Anyone can stand up and say "I do this in the name of my religion" – it does not mean their religion would supports it.

    August 15, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  15. Chris

    Everyone seems to overlook the fact the of the 3000+ innocent people who lost their lives that day it also included a number of muslim Americans. Those victim's families suffered just as much loss and grief as any other. But because they are muslims they somehow don't count.

    August 15, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  16. Ben

    Nadler is right Al-Queda attacked us, not the entire Muslim world!! Where is Osama Bin Laden? STILL can't find him Hmmmm? Why isn't the NEW WTC construction taking SOOOO long, will the Mosque be completed first PROBABLY SOOO!! NY CITY CORRUPTION!! Wake UP!

    August 15, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  17. ad


    People will believe only what they want to believe.

    If you are saying there are no Christian terrorists in 2010, then you are wrong my friend. Open your eyes up. Read up about christian atrocities in north east india and africa. Please do not compare America to third world islamic nations. If you really want to compare, then please compare 3rd world islamic nations with 3rd world christian nations.

    August 15, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  18. Dean

    For those who support the Constitution – the law allows the mosque to be built. Therefore, elected officials have no Constitutional authority to stop it. We may be opposed to it morally. We may think it is insensitive. We have the right to object, to try to convince, to be angry. But, if we support the Constitution, we must accept that we have no right to prevent the mosque from being built. The Constitution provides for protection from the 'tyranny of the masses', and the whims of government.

    If you think elected officials *should* intervene, and you vote based upon that – then you are *not* in support of the Constitution. Instead, you are in support of tyranny – because you are in support of putting officials in place who would oppress any group that the majority don't like. That *is* the definition of tyranny and oppression. I find it distressing that so many who call themselves American cannot see this.

    August 15, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  19. Rush Goebbels

    Maybe the Constitution needs a complete update and be rewritten since everyone wants it to do what they want it too.

    August 15, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  20. George

    The topic of taxing churches is a good one, and should be talked about much more. Why should they be exempt, when obviously they are a business just like any other. I worked for two churches, one Baptist and the other Lutheran, and in both cases, the bottom line was always the bottom line. Money talks and Jesus First National Bank.
    Taxes churches of all faiths equally would be a good way to get the country out of debt. Why should they get a free ride while everyone else pays.

    August 15, 2010 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  21. John

    A lot of 'sensitivity' gets disguised as 'evil' too.. what you you say we go build a cathedral in Mecca, that would go over like a fart in Church!... I am still waiting for the Islamic outrage and public relations spin from the 911. Either our main stream media isn't reporting it or it isn't there, I'm opting for the latter and the mosque is just another show of the viral infection headed our way.

    August 15, 2010 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  22. Chicagoguy

    A leader would have strong command of his words both before and after his polls drop. This guys a a lawyer playing it safe. Absolutely not a leader. Obviously a mosque has a legal right to build in a sensitive area, but doing so would defy popular sentiment so much that it would insight violence in wake of it being perceived by many americans as a slap in the face. Islam may not be militant but a ton of islamists are still living in the middle ages and seek to wage holy wars. This cannot be a good decision nor should a leader be so unclear with his message. This is not my president. Absolutely if a mosque pops up, I support a gay bar popping up right next door. After all, they have a legal right to be located next to a mosque as well.

    August 15, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  23. George

    Tax all churches, and other religious institutions, so that they may "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's".

    August 15, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  24. David

    This shouldn't even be a question. Of course the Cordoba Center should be built – not only is it their constitutional right, but there is a Muslim community in Manhattan who are as American as anybody else. This whole issue is being used as propaganda by bigoted knuckleheads.

    August 15, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  25. Ted D

    Crtitics of the President's support for the Islamic center would be equally outraged, and more justifiably, if he said he opposed it. For opposing and trying to stop the center would mean that the President is actually doing something of which his critics constantly and falsely accuse him: violating the Constitution, in particular, its protection of the freedom of religion.

    Either this is a nation of laws or it is not. If it is a nation of laws and the law allows for the center to be built (and it does), then to refuse to allow its construction violates the foundation of this nation. We may not like it, but we must support it.

    August 15, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
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