President Barack Obama broke his months-long silence on the $100 million Islamic center and mosque planned two blocks from ground zero in New York City, which project critics say is offensive to families of those who perished in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The president came out in support of the Cordoba House mosque project.
Or ... did he?
"... Over the course of our history, religion has flourished within our borders precisely because Americans have had the right to worship as they choose - including the right to believe in no religion at all.
And it is a testament to the wisdom of our founders that America remains deeply religious - a nation where the ability of peoples of different faiths to coexist peacefully and with mutual respect for one another stands in stark contrast to the religious conflict that persists elsewhere around the globe.
Now, that's not to say that religion is without controversy. Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities - particularly New York.
Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable.
So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.
But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.
This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the founders must endure.
We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honor those who led the response to that attack - from the firefighters who charged up smoke-filled staircases, to our troops who are serving in Afghanistan today.
And let us also remember who we're fighting against, and what we're fighting for. Our enemies respect no religious freedom. Al Qaeda's cause is not Islam - it's a gross distortion of Islam.
These are not religious leaders - they're terrorists who murder innocent men and women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion - and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.
It certainly sounded like Obama was lending his voice to those who support the planned Islamic center and mosque in Manhattan.
But a day later, on Aug. 14, the president appeared to backtrack:
"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."
The president's dual comments on the Islamic center and mosque, which came after months of growing controversy over the project, were said to be conflicting and inartful at best, and amounting to faint praise for the project at worst.
Opinion: Ground Zero Mosque Represents Conquest for Islamic Jihadists (Conservative Politics)
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