Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s still wrestling with his opinion on the proposed building of an Islamic cultural center, including a mosque, within two blocks of Ground Zero in New York City. Grassley, a Republican, says he has to agree with President Obama when he says legally, the federal government can’t interfere with the project.
“Technically the president is right about the Constitutional thing,” Grassley says. “You can build almost anywhere as long as you meet local building codes and things of that nature, but I think that it does not take into consideration the sensitivity of the situation.” Grassley compares the proposed mosque near the site of the World Trade Center to previous incidents, like when Disney was considering building a theme park near a Civil War battlefield in Virginia, a plan that was protested and scrapped.
Grassley says, “I can’t speak for the sensitivity of September the 11th and all the New Yorkers that were killed but don’t forget there were people killed from 40 different countries that were in the towers, and there were relatives of Iowans and former Iowans from five or six families that died there.” Grassley notes the Catholic Church was considering the construction of a convent in the 1980s near Auschwitz prison camp in Poland, a plan that was also abandoned. He says the mosque issue will be a tough decision.
Grassley says, “Maybe the sensitivity of that should be taken into consideration by the people that are thinking about building the mosque, particularly at a time when we’re trying to build relationships between members of different religious faiths in America.” He says we “need to be tolerant of all religions” but adds, there’s “something special about September the 11th” and the “hallowed ground where 3,000 people died.”