Barack Obama clearly is a born teacher. In fact, in some ways he may be a far better teacher than president. The proof is in this civics lesson he taught at today’s press conference, where he answered a question about the wisdom of building a mosque (known as Cordoba House) near Ground Zero, and the wisdom of moving it:
…There’s no doubt that when someone goes out of their way to be provocative in ways that we know can inflame the passions of over a billion Muslims around the world, at a time when we’ve got our troops in a lot of Muslim countries, that’s a problem. And it has made life a lot more difficult for our men and women in uniform who already have a very difficult job.
With respect to the mosque in New York…this country stands for the proposition that all men and women…have certain inalienable rights — one of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely. And what that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site.
Now, I recognize the extraordinary sensitivities around 9/11. I’ve met with families of 9/11 victims in the past. I can only imagine the continuing pain and anguish and sense of loss that they may go through. And tomorrow we as Americans are going to be joining them in prayer and remembrance. But I go back to what I said earlier: We are not at war against Islam. We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts.
And we’ve got to be clear about that. We’ve got to be clear about that because if we’re going to…successfully reduce the terrorist threat, then we need all the allies we can get. The folks who are most interested in a war between the United States or the West and Islam are al Qaeda. That’s what they’ve been banking on.
And fortunately, the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world are peace-loving, are interested in the same things that you and I are interested in: How do I make sure I can get a good job? How can I make sure that my kids get a decent education? How can I make sure I’m safe? How can I improve my lot in life? And so they have rejected this violent ideology for the most part — overwhelmingly.
And so from a national security interest, we want to be clear about who the enemy is here. It’s a handful, a tiny minority of people who are engaging in horrific acts, and have killed Muslims more than anybody else.
The other reason it’s important…is because we’ve got millions of Muslim Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They’re going to school with our kids. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends. They’re our coworkers. And when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?
I’ve got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan in the uniform of the United States armed services. They’re out there putting their lives on the line for us. And we’ve got to make sure that we are crystal-clear for our sakes and their sakes they are Americans and we honor their service. And part of honoring their service is making sure that they understand that we don’t differentiate between them and us. It’s just us.
And that is a principle that I think is going to be very important for us to sustain. And I think tomorrow is an excellent time for us to reflect on that.
If only his policies and administration ran on principles this clear, he’d undoubtedly be another Lincoln.
After a very shaky start in which its news reporting on the Islamic center was quite negative–highlighting, for example, Abe Foxman’s opposition as if it were a decisive blow to the project and polls finding that New Yorkers wanted it moved–today the Times published numerous highly sympathetic stories about the loss of Muslim life on 9/11, and the loony-tunes nature of Pastor Jones and those Islamophobes weighing in against it. It also published an impassioned op-ed by Imam Rauf himself. Good to see that it’s coming around slowly. They even published a story on rabbis who were contemplating whether or not to address the subject in their Rosh Hashana sermons. It has not, though, yet followed up on Politico’s reporting about the funding behind the attacks on the Park51 project from right-wing American Jews like Joyce Chernick. It should.