The latest political casualty of the sizzling controversy around the Ground Zero mosque, as it has come to be known, might be none other than President Barack Obama.
After he broke months of silence on the issue last week and threw his weight behind the proponents of the Cordoba House community centre, planned two blocks away from the site of the 9/11 attacks, he has found himself lacking the support of Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, and watched as Republicans began to attack his position on the subject.
Last week at a White House Iftar dinner Mr. Obama had said, “As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practise their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”
However, Jim Manley, a spokesman for Nevada Senator Reid said shortly thereafter, “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion... Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”
Further, Republicans alleged that the President was no longer aware of what a majority of Americans felt about the mosque being constructed in the proximity of the worst terrorist attack on United States soil.
The New York Times quoted James Renacci, a Republican candidate from Ohio, saying, “It is very troubling to see President Obama again turning a deaf ear to the thoughts and concerns of a majority of Americans,” and that people at a recent public meeting “were furious about the mosque proposal”.
Mr. Obama also rephrased his own words over the weekend when he said, “I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there... I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.” Those rights, according to him, related to the broader principle that government ought to “treat everybody equally”, regardless of religion.