Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
There was an interesting echo at the White House when President Barack Obama came out in favour of the proposed Cordoba House Muslim cultural centre near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York (see our news report here). Controversy about the project, which opponents call the "Ground Zero mosque," has been swirling in New York for weeks and went national recently when Republicans Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich joined the critics' campaign. But until the annual Iftar dinner he hosted on Friday evening, the president had kept out of what his spokesman called "a matter for New York City and the local community to decide.” (Photo: President Obama addresses White House Iftar meal, 13 August 2010/Jason Reed)
Reading his comments, it looks like Obama not only let NYC authorities decide the issue -- favourably for the project, as it turned out, as both the local community board and the landmarks commission voted overwhelmingly to let it go ahead. He may also have taken pointers for his speech from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has stood solidly behind the project despite all the emotion it has stirred up.
After the Landmarks Preservation Commission cleared the last administrative hurdle to the plan -- rejecting the opponents' bid to protect the 1857 building standing on the proposed Cordoba House site from being torn down -- Bloomberg delivered a forceful speech on August 3 defending two long-standing American traditions. (Photo: Current building on the Cordoba House site in lower Manhattan, 3 August 2010/Mike Segar)
The first and most obvious one was freedom of religion: “Of all our precious freedoms, the most important may be the freedom to worship as we wish... I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime – as important a test – and it is critically important that we get it right."