August 18th, 2010
12:29 PM ET
4 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. Enough

    Let me be clear.........Obama's famous words, Obama is anti American and clearly in support of muslims. Just listen to HIS own words in many speeches.....but you won't find that anywhere on a liberal sight, more censorship to protect the true Obama.

    August 18, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. glib lib

    Perfectly honest, rational, thought out, intelligent response to a non-issue.

    August 18, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  3. Blkman

    WHY on earth would he have "regrets"? Why is it so difficult for white America to accept the truth?

    August 18, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  4. Shirley in California

    While I disagree with another mosque being built ANYWHERE in the U.S., I'm so glad you stood up for what you believe. I'm truly proud of you today.

    Go Mr. President!

    August 18, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  5. CK in MN

    President Obama is exactly correct! The people that are so opposed to building the mosque are like the people that thought Japenese internment camps during WWII were the right thing to do.
    Let's blame an entire race or religion for the acts of crazy people!

    August 18, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. Don

    Somebody please explain to the Republicans that there is more to the constitution than jsut the 2nd amendment

    August 18, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. Walt Urbanski

    The President should be applauded and supported for reminding all Americans of the precious and basic rights guaranteed in our Constitution. We look to our elected officials to lead by example and Mr. Obama has done just that by taking the high road on a very emotional and politically charged issue.

    August 18, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  8. A True Centrist

    We haven't had a President and Vice President hurt their party more everytime they opened their mouths since...well....since George W Bush and Dick Cheaney. Why can't we seem to vote the right candidates into office?

    August 18, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  9. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    During this same trip, he was lying to Americans about the prosperity of the stimulus money he gave to the unions as payback for his election, that privatization of Social Security was bad. As much as he lies, why would he not lie about the Islamic center. His whole life and career have been builty on lying and corruption.

    August 18, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. Gobama!

    Obama got this just right. Of course muslims have a constitutional right to build the center. And of course, it is also unwise to build the center at the location proposed. The GOP just wants something to politick about for November.....They will have to find it elsewhere, Americans are smarter than the republican party gives them credit for. GOBAMA!

    August 18, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  11. Walter Adams

    To paraphrase the famous
    They came first for the Communists,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist
    warning about Nazi Germany we could add the current GOP hysteria,
    Then they came for the Muslims, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Muslim.
    If this blatant disregard for a precious freedom enshrined in our Bill of Rights is allowed to run its pernicious course,
    Then they came for me
    and by that time no one was left to speak up,
    will be too true for all Americans.

    August 18, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  12. Lisa P

    I wonder how the poll numbers change when people find out the truth: the supposed "victory Mosque" is nothing more than a Muslim Y proposed by an ecumenically-minded Imam who has been pursuing the idea (and an available location) for over a decade and would be more than happy to see people of all faiths using the center and even sitting on the Board.

    The whole "issue" as it has been framed by the howlers is a lie. You folks who were ready to rip up our Constitution based on inflammatory rhetoric and the ignorant hype of self promoters should take a closer look at who your "leaders" are, and maybe at yourselves while you're at it. Measure twice, cut once, as my wise old grandad used to say.

    August 18, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  13. I Can See November From Here

    CNN won't report it,but Nancy Pelosi is calling for a probe into the Opponents of the Mosque project!Yes,how dare those sinister relatives of those killed in the 9/11 attacks,speak out against honoring murderers!What do they think this is,AMERICA?

    August 18, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. SA in OO

    This is the kind of complex, nuanced issue that Republican politicians can’t seem to understand (or don’t want to), and many “ordinary” people on both sides of the political divide can’t handle either.

    QUESTION: Do the developers have the constitutional right to build the mosque?
    No question, and it would be an infringement on that right and on their religious freedom to keep them from doing so.

    QUESTION: Given the sensitivity the country still feels about the 9/11 attacks, and the admittedly wrong headed prejudices that it has engendered in the public, including many otherwise rational and tolerant people, is this the best site for the center?
    Probably not. Salt is a relatively benign mineral, until you rub it in an unhealed wound.

    Fortunately in a recent poll most of the respondents got the idea that, though the President’s comments may have sounded like he was saying two things (and he was), he was actually right on both counts.

    QUOTE: “The Siena Research Institute found 63 percent opposed it (the mosque location), but 64 percent said the center's developers have a constitutional right to build it.

    August 18, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  15. bill

    the president is exactly right.lets get off this hatred.to people that may seem different.our president has his hands full.trying to deal with party of no. I SEE A BIG BACKLASH ON FAR RIGHTIES.LIKE PALIN .GINGRICH. HOPE I AM RIGHT

    August 18, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  16. Pangloss

    The President should have no regrets about following the Constitution of the United States, the one that our Founding Fathers fought for and which radical elements of the reactionary right wish to selectively follow.

    August 18, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  17. Molly Weasley

    Why is this so hard to figure out? The president takes an oath to "uphold the Constitution of the United States." That Constitution contains certain rights in the First Amendment, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The president must uphold those rights.

    There's nothing in the Constitution about taking a poll to see how people feel about a ginned-up, false controversy about a "Ground Zero Mosque," which isn't even a mosque and is some two or three blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center.

    This was not an issue before it started being pushed by right-wingers and the Fox Noise Channel (now an official part of the GOP, due to News Corp.'s $1 million donation to the Republican governors group). Plans for this community center have been in the works since December.

    And don't forget that Imam Rauf, the driving force behind this community center, has been a force for equality and moderation in Islam, has worked with the FBI on counterterrorism for the last decade and was sent by the Bush administration on a Mideast peace mission in 2003.

    Hey, I wish certain things wouldn't be built in my neighborhood, too. But that's why we live in a free country. The Newt Gingriches, $arah Palins and their ilk should actually read the Constitution for a change instead of fear-mongering.

    And least CNN is finally using the term "community center."

    August 18, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  18. RICK FROM PA

    The Republican Party are the ones who are out of touch with the American People and so, how do they dare to critize our President.
    On Friday Evening President Obama simply stated that any religion has a Constitutional Right to build a "Church (Mosque)" wherever they wish too and that is all that he said. On Saturday, he reaffirmed what he had already said on Friday Evening and simply added that perhaps from a "wisdom" standpoint it might not be a such a good idea. I don't understand why the Media is feeding into this – it is just two simple statements. I can understand why the Republicans are – since they oppose everything that the President says or does!

    August 18, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  19. True American

    there is a baptist church right across from the centennial olympic park where christian terrorist eric rudolph set off a bomb. where were the protests then?

    August 18, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  20. Von Bismark

    Which of the comments is he not regretting?He either believes in the constitutionality of the issue or tells the world the defence of the constitution is based on sentiments.If this were to be the case then slavery would not have been abolished, civil rights enacted...
    Is he afraid of Glenn Beck?

    August 18, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  21. La Piovra

    Nor should he regret having said it. It is his duty, as a President sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, to defend the constitutional rights of even the most unpopular. Our Constitution is not subject to revision by opinion polls. Indeed, most of those who are offended by this Islamic center nonetheless acknowledge that there is the same right to build it as there would be to build a YMCA or a YMHA. The President needs to continue to bring home that this is what matters and that the free exercise of anyone's religion is not at the mercy of popularity contests.

    August 18, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  22. Ric

    Why would Barry have any regrets? he needs a place to worship when he vists NYC.

    This clown is so bad. Libtards can defend him all they like but they know in thier won minds they were conned into electing this empty suit.

    August 18, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  23. Veteran

    I agree with the President one hundred and twenty percent on this one. Do I agree with a mosque being built on the site of or in the immediate area of 9/11, no I do not. Do they have a right to build there if they so wish, yes they do. Is it wise to build there, I do not feelthat it would be in the best interests of the community but there is nothing that would legally stop the mosque from being build.

    August 18, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  24. New Age Independant

    So.. Obama says a statement endorsing the mosque, then has to come back and modify his statement. And this wasn't because he regretting saying something stupid? And this isnt regret? What new term are liberals going to call this I wonder?

    According to Liberals, opposition to the mosque is now a vast right-wing conspiracy... This is how liberals feel when the overwhelming majority of Americans are opposed to the mosque being near the disaster site of 9-11. Do people need any more proof that liberals are completely out of touch with the country?

    August 18, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  25. Blablabla

    This is bigotry. Period. There is religious freedom in this country and the Islamic Center is not to be built at "Ground Zero" but several blocks away. Equating all muslims with A-Qaeda is outrageous.

    August 18, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
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