Is another (non-alcoholic) beer summit in order? Perhaps this time to discuss the controversial plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero? That's what one lawyer joined lawmakers in suggesting Sunday in a fiery exchange on America's News Headquarters. Brett Joshpe, an attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice, says opposition to the planned Cordoba House has been mischaracterized and hijacked by politics. Joshpe's organization has filed a lawsuit against the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee for declining to grant landmark status to the proposed site.
"This is not about Islamaphobia," he said. "This is deliberately provocative and inflammatory....If the president wants to show some leadership on this issue, rather than taking a stance and then backtracking from it, I think the president should invite both sides to the White House to sit down and discuss this."
The proposed project is a 13-story, $100 million Isamic center that would be built just two blocks from Ground Zero and include a mosque, a 500-seat auditorium, a swimming pool and a gym. The plan has prompted both protest and support from the New York City community in recent weeks.
President Obama elevated the debate to a national level this weekend after he appeared to support the plans at a Friday Iftar dinner at the White House - a celebration marking the end of the Ramadan fast. "As a citizen, and as president," he said, "I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan." The President later clarified his remarks: "I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right the people have that dates back to our founding," he said Saturday during a family vacation to the Gulf.
Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called opposition to the mosque a "national campaign of disinformation to demonize Islam" and condemned the "hatemongers" that he says have preyed on the emotional feelings of September 11 to incite anger against the larger Muslim community.
"We're merely defending the American Muslim community from these smear merchants who are using this manufactured issue to bash Islam and Muslims," he said.
"It's shameful and you know it," Joshpe fired back. "Nobody is bashing Islam."
Watch the fiery video below.