Reacting to President Obama’s forceful defense of Muslims’ rights to build a new Islamic community center near Ground Zero, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) — who believes there are “too many mosques in this country” — said, “It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero.” King’s statement underscores one of the least understood facts of the new project: there is already a mosque near Ground Zero.
Today, the New York Times reports on Masjid Manhattan (located four blocks from Ground Zero) and Masjid al-Farah (located 12 blocks from Ground Zero):
But what the two mosques have in common — besides the sense of celebration and camaraderie that comes at the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, in which Muslims fast from sunup to sundown, give alms and focus on self-improvement — is that both have existed for decades, largely unnoticed, blocks from the World Trade Center site.
The Times goes on to note, “Both mosques — essentially one-room operations — routinely turn people away for lack of space.” And thus, the need for a new, larger location.
The unique aspect of the Cordoba House is not the mosque, but rather the fact it will “house a cultural centre, a 500-seat performing arts centre, culinary school, exhibition space, swimming pool, gym, basketball court, restaurant, library and art studios.” The vision of the project spearheaded by Imam Abdul Faisal Rauf is that it will function like the nearby Jewish-run cultural center, which had a role “in helping the Jewish community become part of mainstream America.” Rauf insists the facility “will serve as a YMCA-type community center for interfaith bridge-building.”
Obama’s defense of the mosque has found some support on the right. Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said Obama’s comments were “ultimately the right thing to do,” adding, “Obama is correct that the way to marginalize radicalism is to respect the best traditions of Islam and protect the religious liberty of Muslim Americans.”
Even on Fox News this morning, the Fox & Friends weekend hosts all agreed that Obama is performing the job that’s required of him. “Obama has to stand up for religious freedom,” said co-host Alisyn Camerota. “He has to stand up for our Constitution,” co-host Dave Briggs offered, to which co-host Clayton Morris added, “That’s the job he gets…defend the Constitution.” Watch it: