Jewish Journal

When a mosque becomes a political issue

by Brad A. Greenberg

August 23, 2010 | 9:04 am

Building houses of worship often becomes a political issue, especially when it would be a sanctuary for a minority religion. But it usually only involves local politicians, like the planning commission in Apple Valley.

When the municipality is the city of New York, well, then I would expect bigger ticket politicians, even the mayor of the most-populous city in the nation to get involved. But I wouldn’t expect the proposed—now approved—building of an Islamic community center to become a national issue that ensnares President Obama and finds a home in the New York gubernatorial race. Then again, this isn’t any old plot of land.

The latest from the Near Ground Zero Mosque is about Rick Lazio, via The New York Times:

“We do not believe in turning our back on the victims of 9/11,” he said to enthusiastic applause. As the Republican primary for the governor’s race approaches, Mr. Lazio is making his vigorous opposition to the project a centerpiece of his candidacy, assailing it on the campaign trail, testifying against it at public hearings, denouncing it in television commercials and even creating an online petition demanding an investigation into the center and its organizers. “Defend New York,” says the giant headline above the petition on his Web site.

As a dominant New York voice against the center, Mr. Lazio has attracted a burst of public attention to a campaign that had failed to gather much momentum, overshadowed by the money and muscle of his Democratic rival, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.

The occasional voter has now taken to stopping Mr. Lazio in the street to urge him on, and any number of others have stocked his campaign’s Web site with letters of support made public by Mr. Lazio’s aides. “Rick’s got my vote,” wrote one New Yorker, after seeing Mr. Lazio’s latest commercial about the center.

Read the rest here.

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