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.It was high time. But at least he did speak out in favour of the traditional American values.
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. (Applause.) 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.
So that's who we’re fighting against. And the reason that we will win this fight is not simply the strength of our arms — it is the strength of our values. The democracy that we uphold. The freedoms that we cherish. The laws that we apply without regard to race, or religion, or wealth, or status. Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect towards those who are different from us –- and that way of life, that quintessentially American creed, stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today.
What to make of the stand the Anti Defamation League's now takes that Dutch ultra-rightist politician Geert Wilders had better stay home instead of giving a speech on 9/11 against the construction of the Cordoba Centre? The ADL itself spoke out against the construction (thereby foregoing all the principles that Obama defended in his Iftar speech and that the ADL itself professes to stand for as well. And now it denies Wilders the right to err in the same way. Sheer hypocrisie. The ADL should be ashamed of itself.