In break with Reid, Durbin backs mosque

The second-ranking Senate Democrat broke ranks with his party’s leader this weekend by announcing his support for the Lower Manhattan Islamic center and mosque.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said Sunday that those who are opposed to the mosque are trying to divide the country with fear and hate.

{mosads}”The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, has given his assent to
this center and I support his decision,” Durbin said Sunday. “The politicians like Newt
Gingrich and Sarah Palin who try to divide America with fear and hate
over this issue betray the diversity which makes our nation great and
the Constitution which they profess to honor.”

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that the planned community center, which includes a mosque, should not be built two blocks from the site of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Durbin’s split with Reid shows that top Democrats continue to take different stances on an issue that has divided the country.

Reid, who is in a tough reelection battle, stoked the political firestorm surrounding the debate. His position appeared to put him at odds with President Obama.

Obama on Aug. 13 said that he supports the rights of the facility’s backers to build the center, citing religious freedom. He said a day later that he was not commenting on the “wisdom” of constructing it specifically at the planned site.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has
that New Yorkers should decide whether to let the facility  be built, but also questioned the funding sources of its

The president’s comments transformed the issue into a national debate and Republicans have sought to turn it into a campaign issue.

Durbin, like Obama, cited freedom of religion in supporting the mosque. 

“They have also forgotten one of the most fundamental American and
constitutional values: our freedom to practice our religion,” he said. “As
President Obama has said, ‘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.’ “

He also praised former President Bush for his stance on Muslims and their faith following the 9/11 attacks.

“I had my differences with President George W. Bush, but I believe he
showed real leadership after 9/11, when, in the agony and anger that
followed, he made it clear that our war was with the terrorists who
perverted the teachings of Islam, not with Muslims who were faithful to
what he called ‘a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others,’ ” he said. “Those who seek to exploit the location of an Islamic center in New York
have forgotten the words of President Bush.”

Tags Dick Durbin Harry Reid

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