By Ray Fleming

THE Ground Zero Mosque controversy in the United States has exploded beyond reason, especially given that the building is not to be a Mosque but an Islamic Cultural Centre with a prayer room and that it is not on the site of or within sight of Ground Zero. However, such basic facts have no effect on opponents of the project who are egged on by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News to see it as part of an Islamic plot to take over the United States as well as an insult to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center (among them, incidentally, some 400 Muslims).

Unfortunately, President Obama has not helped. Like many other commentators I praised his comment ten days ago that “Muslims have the same right to practise their religion as anyone else in this country” since in its timing it seemed to be a direct reference to the proposed cultural centre. But the White House subsequently clarified that the President “was not commenting on the project's wisdom, only to its legality”. Such back-tracking was probably the result of worries about the mid-tem Congressional elections in November but it left Mr Obama looking weak and indecisive.

Have any of the protestors against Muslim presence in America stopped to think about the effect their hostility has on efforts of US and other Western forces to “win hearts and minds” in Afghanistan?

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