As opinion polls registered strong opposition to plans for an Islamic center near Ground Zero, President Obama on Wednesday issued a statement
marking the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, calling the holiday "a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country."
Obama said Ramadan is a time "when Muslims around the world reflect upon the wisdom and guidance that comes with faith, and the responsibility that human beings have to one another, and to God."
He noted Ramadan's call for prayer and sacrifice and almsgiving, and said that along with the gatherings of family and friends at sundown for iftar dinners
to break the daily fast, they are reminders "that the world we want to build – and the changes that we want to make – must begin in our own hearts, and our own communities."
As the White House released the statement, a new CNN poll
shows nearly 70 percent of Americans oppose building a mosque near the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, and just 29 percent support the idea.
Broken down by party affiliation, 54 percent of Democrats oppose the plans while 82 percent of Republicans disapprove of the $100-million project, which is styled after the 92nd Street Y, a major Jewish cultural center on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The proposed Cordoba House also hopes to promote interfaith dialogue and provide an alternative to the radical Islamic views espoused by the 9/11 terrorists.
"Support for the controversial project is slightly higher among younger Americans than older Americans, but even among those under the age of 50, six in ten oppose the plan," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Ramadan begins Wednesday evening at the sighting of the new moon (though the date can vary depending on the region of the world), and it continues for a lunar month. Obama is to host an iftar dinner at the White House later this week, a tradition begun by George W. Bush his first year in office and continued throughout both of his terms.
"These rituals," the president said, referring to Ramadan, "remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam's role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings."
Filed Under: George W. Bush
, Bush Administration
, Barack Obama
, Foreign Policy
, Obama Administration
, Middle East
, White House
, Ground Zero Mosque