In an interview with Real Clear Politics last week, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) broke his silence about the Islamic community center set to be built near Ground Zero in New York City. “I’m strongly opposed to the idea of putting a mosque anywhere near Ground Zero — I think it’s inappropriate,” he said. “[I]t’s hallowed ground, it’s sacred ground, and we should respect that. We shouldn’t have images or activities that degrade or disrespect that in any way.”
On Friday, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison (D), the first Muslim member of Congress, shot back:
“I know he wants to be president really bad, and I know he’s trying to appeal to the most extreme elements of his party to do that, but I hope he doesn’t want to be president so bad that he’s willing to dishonor the First Amendment and our heritage of religious tolerance,” Ellison told the Star Tribune. […]
Ellison said that Pawlenty displayed “a profound lack of understanding” about religious tolerance, and he should apologize for his remarks.
“It’s very unseemly that a Midwestern politician would try to divide New Yorkers and Americans on the basis of religion,” the Minnesota Democrat said. … “His ambition is blinding him right now.”
The Star Tribune reports that a dozen Muslim groups in Minnesota sent a letter to Pawlenty calling on him to apologize for his remarks:
The groups, who sent a letter to Pawlenty’s office Monday, wrote that the Minnesota governor should respect freedom of religion, and asked that he meet with local Muslim leaders to “understand how his comments have negatively impacted the Minnesota Muslim community.”
“Our governor has engaged in collective guilt by saying that all Muslim activities and images anywhere near Ground Zero are degrading and disrespectful,” Taneeza Islam, civil rights director for Minnesota’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement.
However, it doesn’t appear as if Pawlenty will be issuing any apology. “The governor’s message is clear: New York is a big place. Find a different location for the mosque,” his spokesperson said.