Overseas terrorist groups could not be more thrilled about the heated debate over the Lower Manhattan mosque, New York Gov. David Paterson (D) said Thursday.
Paterson said that the mosque debate has "gotten out of hand," and the recent stabbing of a New York City cab driver, allegedly because of his Muslim faith, is allowing Islamic terrorists to accomplish their objectives.
"I would say that an incident like this, where a taxi driver almost lost his life, should certainly compel us to remembering — as I was talking to the archbishop about the other day — this is what the terrorists really want," Paterson told John Gambling on WOR this morning, according to New York-based YNN. "This is the terrorists getting a yield on their investment when they attacked this country and blew up the World Trade Center — that we’re fighting each other. This is making their day. We can disagree about this, but I thought the rhetoric and the acrimony has gotten far out of hand."
Paterson is one of the highest-profile figures to endorse the notion that the mosque debate has fueled Islamic extremism.
Recent reports have indicated that the issue has been used in extremist materials, but White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan downplayed the idea, saying there is no evidence that the debate has played into extremism.
The mosque debate reached a national fever pitch after President Obama weighed in this month. He said that he backs the rights of the project developers to build the facility, an Islamic center called Park51 that includes a mosque, to be built two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks. But he later said he was not commenting on the "wisdom" of building the center in that particular location.
The issue has divided the Republican and Democratic parties, and both have sought to use it as a political cudgel against one another.
Paterson said that he would like to meet with representatives of the Cordoba Initiative, the developers, but acknowledged they have been reluctant to enter talks to move the site.
“The whole discussion is marred now because the alternative site now starts to suggest that they have to take some responsibility for what people who look like them or have the same religion as them or came from the same geographic area as them did,” Paterson said. “And I don’t think we should ever get to the point where we’re now taking responsibility for your guys and our guys…Because of that, I think my message has been kind of lost.”