August 18th, 2010
12:29 PM ET
8 years ago

Obama: 'no regrets' on Islamic Center

Columbus, Ohio (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Wednesday he has "no regrets" about his comments last week supporting the rights of Muslims to build an Islamic center and mosque two blocks from the site of the September 11 terror attacks in New York.

"The answer is no regrets," Obama said when asked about bringing up the issue last Friday at a White House dinner commemorating the start of Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

At the dinner, Obama said those wanting to build the Islamic center and mosque have the constitutional right to religious freedom. On Saturday, he clarified that he was talking only about the right to build the center and not the "wisdom" of doing so close to "ground zero," where more than 2,700 people died when planes hijacked by terrorists slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

The remarks sparked a national debate on the emotional issue, with many Republicans condemning the president as insensitive to families of victims and out of touch with the views of most Americans.

Many Democrats responded that the right to religious freedom applies to all Americans, though some - including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - said they oppose having the Islamic center so close to ground zero.

A CNN poll showed 70 percent of respondents opposed having an Islamic center near the site of the September 11 attacks. A separate poll released Wednesday by the Siena Research Institute found 63 percent opposed it, but 64 percent said the center's developers have a constitutional right to build it.

–CNN's Steve Brusk contributed to this story

Filed under: issues • President Obama • Religion
soundoff (136 Responses)
  1. Jeff in Houston

    Good for you Mr. President!

    To all the tea-baggers, rednecks, and members of the American Taliban: Here is the thing you keep forgetting. I would fight for your right to place an extremest Evangelical church across the street from my house. I respect the religous freedom of others. I would fight to maintain your religious freedom. Just keep your mythology and fantasy to yourself.

    Would you fight to protect my freedom to be free of religous doctrine? I doubt it. But I will fight for you.

    August 18, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  2. Fed Up

    Of course he doesn't have any regrets. Everyone read between the lines and knows exactly what he meant. Even the Muslims.

    August 18, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. Scott in Atlanta

    Since the building is a "Community Center" with a mosque in it, I have a question: Since a plane from 9/11 actually crashed into the Pentagon, and yet there is a mosque at teh Pentagon, should we move the Pentagon further away from the Pentagon?

    August 18, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. Jeff from Va

    And I guess that everything that has been done so far by you and your administration has been right, for all of us, or just the ones who don't want to work for anything and have everything given to them!!!!!!!

    August 18, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Scott O' Canada

    In the wonderful world of politics, where double speak is a required second language, your president came out and basically point out the obvious. I'm not seeing much controversy here. And instead of trying to circumvent the question, addressed it head on as a leader should. Perhaps he would be welled served in this politically charged atmosphere to start learning to speak out of both sides of his mouth. It seems to be what the American people demand.

    August 18, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  6. Lib Hunter

    Lots of people are having regrets about voting Imam Obama as President. He is definiely in way over his head.

    August 18, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  7. blue

    Good for you , Mr. President. You just reminded everyone that we have freedom of religion.

    August 18, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  8. Glen in LA

    That's exactly right. Why has mob mentality suddenly become respectable just because some have re-labelled it as "the will of the people"? Whether a situation is popular or not, let's respect folks constitutional rights and respect the rule of law. As for far right arguements that a mosque should only be allowed near ground zero when Saudi Arabia allows a synagogue or a Christian church in the center of Riyahd...we are better than that because we are Americans.

    August 18, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  9. NYCitizen

    Quite frankly, building a mosque 2 blocks from Ground Zero in NYC IS insensitive not only to the families' of the victims who perished there, but to all of our U.S. citizenry. September 11, 2001 changed ALL Americans forever, and putting a mosque 2 blocks away from where the World Trade Center Towers once stood does come accross as an extremist victory monument. I hope Gov. Patterson can get the mosque moved to somewhere else. I think the time for political correctness is over, and we all gotta say what's on our minds, and the heck with how anybody feels about it.

    August 18, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  10. Facts are not fair to the GOP

    Can you imagine what the wingnuts at Fox republican news would have done if Obama did not support the first amendment and instead, spoke out against the cultural center? This smokescreen is a result of GObP trying to hide their agenda to change the constitution, eliminate social security, eliminate health reform, eliminate wall street reform, and extend the tax cuts for the wealthy which will add $5 trillion to the debt over the next ten years. Republicans are not worthy of being elected.

    August 18, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  11. terry,va

    He is so out of touch with Americans he can't be one of us!!!

    August 18, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  12. Mike

    What did you expect? This guy thinks he's never wrong on anything. What a disaster he has been for this country.

    August 18, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  13. annie s

    Nor should he have regrets. The President takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America...and that is exactly what he did.

    August 18, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. staple

    Thank-you Mr. President, you did the right thing.

    August 18, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  15. Willa-PA

    He is right. The teabaggers and repubs should stop fear mongering the uneducated by making uneducated political insinuations and who don't know the constitution apparently

    August 18, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  16. Sgt. Joe

    He showed guts speaking out on this issue even though his comment is not popular with most. His answers seemed logical to me. What can of worms do we open by prohibiting this mosque in that location? Isn't the US about freedom & rights? Obama even said he wouldn't comment on the "wisdom" of building there, so that says something as well. I support the Governor of NY for attempting to negotiate on a different location; that's a good compromise. But, to read the anger and threats is disgusting to me.

    August 18, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. Tim

    No regrets, and no clue.

    August 18, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  18. worriedmom

    Ok CNN so what you are saying is Obama is in favor of the "mosque" being built . Then our President owes it to us to come out and state exactly that and stop playing games with his words. Obviously he will state he doesn't look at polls to realize that 68% of the American population do not want this mosque at this location. By the way CNN please report on how Pelosi wants the funding of those opposing the location of the mosque investigated. Did anyone tell Pelosi and Obama what country they are actually living and representing???

    August 18, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. Laverne

    Thank you Mr. President. People like Newt and Sarah are playing politics and the republicans want to ignore the constitution when they don't get their way. It is horrible what happened on 9/11, but this whole issue is misleading with the help of the media. First, the community center is not where ground zero is at, second what difference does it make if the community center is 50 ft. away vs 51 ft?? The argument in itself is really silly because we are not at war with muslims, we are at war with al queda. We have terrorist right here in America, American born and bred who claimed to be right wing evangelical christians who claim they killed in the name of Jesus and we don't say well can't build beside me because you are a catholic, evangelical, or christian. Some Americans are trying to put President Obama on the cross to crucify him and the man has a lot on his plate and a lot of mean spirited people who care more about destroying him than building up America. The nay sayers have not convinced me to change my mind about supporting President Obama as a matter of fact, this typical white woman supports him more than ever!

    August 18, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  20. bill


    August 18, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  21. BILL, WI

    Why are democrats talking about investigating the supporters for opposing the location of the Muslim center. Is Pelosi right to pick and choose which constitutional provisions people will be allowed?

    August 18, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  22. Cindy

    If the President did not do the responsible thing, and remind us of the Constitutional rights of Muslims in America, we would have continued to slide down that slippery slope that led us to internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

    We cannot condemn a group of innocent people because our emotions got the better of us.

    Honestly... I'm so glad we don't have a drama queen president who goes with the emotional flow.

    August 18, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  23. Chris W

    I guess I'm an idealist...but...

    why is the "Ground Zero Mosque still a story??!!!......This is public property. This is a legal organization (Now if it's not, that's a different story. If the criticism around Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is legitimate, then okay;this can't happen). The purpose of the house, is to be a place where anyone may go and pray to whomever they deem God (The first amendment goes both ways, a prayer space is a prayer space); where you can enjoy the following amenities: "a 500 – seat auditorium, theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, childcare services, art exhibitions, bookstore, culinary school, and a food court serving halal dishes", seems like a great place. My church has none of these things; but we are resourceful, we make use of our neighborhood for these activates, and serve"soul food" dishes. So in a way it is both a community center and a church. My church is a blessing, it has shaped and will continue to shape the lives of many individuals. And from time to time various people entered the house of prayer to worship with us; no one can tell you what religion they practiced; no one can tell you who they were praying to, but they respected the house, they were courteous, respectful and welcomed.

    Politicians are using this as a wedge issue (i.e. Gay Marriage -2004). They are all jumping up in arms about this with nothing to back up this anger. Their job is to legislate based on the constitution, not stand in its way; nor is it to incite anger and fear for the sake of being re-elected. This country was established on the ideal of freedom of religion. Outright anger and outrage over this issue is not necessary. Calling the building disrespectful only gives power to the"terrorist".

    It's the fear. That is the ultimate goal of terrorism. To incite enough fear as a means of coercion. Calling "Ground Zero" sacred ground only feeds into the fear and anger towards all Muslims, Arab nations, Muslim Americans, Islam and Islamic culture; because we refuse to let it go. Imagine how much our country has changed since, diners, water fountains, and schools have become non-"sacred" and people let go of their fear and anger towards African Americans.

    Yes, 9/11 was a horrific event, many people died. Yes, people lost family members, and they will continue to lose family members; immortality has not been discovered. And when family members past, we mourn them and never forget them, but we move on and get on with the rest of our life. So when it comes to 9/11 and the people that were lost......we have mourned them......and will always remember them........ and where we were......and how we found out. But we must also get over them/the day/the land and move on with the rest of our lives (as a people and a country).

    It is evident that this rhetoric that incites this fear is being used to motivate (i.e. gain votes) and divide (voters, and the west and Arab world) us as a people. Destroying the values of this great nation; and that is truly Un-American. Hitler said it best, "The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force"; the question then becomes what direction are these politicians or terrorist pushing us towards....a police state? Islamic nation?....a country where we no longer trust one another? That is why fear is so powerful, and why the building of this Islamic Community Center should happen. It would show that no matter what, this is still America. We will not be motivated by fear and we are still the melting point of the world. I've never been to the Statue of Liberty, but these words "Give me your tired, your poor...Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free", still mean something to me.

    So please someone tell me how this is disrespectful or why this community center should not be built?

    August 18, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. nini

    Yes no regret because he is Anti American.

    When you sit in an alter that preaches "America's chickens came home to roost" and KKK America.
    When you wife has never been proud of this country in her adult life then I can see how this Man wouldn't regret his comments about building a Victory Mosque.

    August 18, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  25. terry,va

    Why would the mosque leaders snub the NY governor about moving the mosque to somewhere else Obummie? They want to rub in the the American people's face!!! You are either stupid or you are one of them!!!!

    August 18, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
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