Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has staked out his position on the controversial Islamic center being built near Ground Zero.
“I think the mayor’s been right on this,” de Blasio told The Observer. “I think this is a matter of American values and freedom of religion.”
But, de Blasio said he also agrees with some of what Republican Congressman Peter King–a mosque opponent–has been saying.
“I heard Peter King the other day on MSNBC, and he said if anything came up about the funding that was questionable, it should be investigated. And I agree with that,” de Blasio said.
Unlike King–who has already called for an investigation into the background of the Imam and the funding behind the mosque–de Blasio said he was talking about a potential scenario in the future.
“I haven’t heard a piece of evidence that suggests the need for an investigation. But I think if it were to emerge, of course it should be looked at,” he said.
Most of New York City’s political leaders have staked out pro-mosque positions with subtle distinctions; De Blasio’s would seem to fall somewhere between the mayor’s utter lack of concern about the funding, and Anthony Weiner’s six-sentence letter complimenting the mayor, while arguing for a process that respects opposing viewpoints and allows “fair questions to be raised.”
“I don’t think there’s any contradiction between saying that we respect freedom of religion and that they have a right to have a mosque there, just like they’d have a right to have a church or a synagogue there,” de Blasio said. “But if any particular new information comes out, of course it should be looked at if there’s any possibility of links to negative forces.”
He denounced the notion that a mosque shouldn’t be built simply because it represents Islam.
“I think that’s where some of the folks who oppose this, I think, really took a wrong turn. Because they didn’t have any evidence of any wrongdoing and they simply tried to create a notion that somehow because it was Muslim it should be treated differently. That’s obviously unacceptable.”
De Blasio drew a parallel to his father, who served in the Pacific in World War II.
“My father was a very intelligent, worldly guy, but he had complicated feelings toward Japanese people, having spent three years in a war against them,” said de Blasio. “So I can understand how families who were victims of 9/11 would feel such intense feelings about this, and that’s understandable. But in the end, freedom of religion is sacrosanct. And they have a right to be there unless something new comes out that raises a new concern.”