The president is right in hinting that there are legal challenges to the planned $100 million, 13-story Cordoba House community center three blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks. And the issue has set off a storm of controversy in New York and across America, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich among those weighing in.
But while Obama and George W. Bush before him have urged Americans to distinguish between Islam and violent jihadism and to step carefully around Muslim sensitivities, the Cordoba House represents for many Americans less a religious-liberties issue and more a lack of respect for those who died on 9/11.
The mosque controversy, argues British commentator Douglas Murray on The Daily Beast website, highlights a central credibility problem for the Islamic world: While Muslim adherents demand respect for the tenets of their religion, they, in the case of the ground zero mosque, have failed to show equal deference for what's been called "the psychological shadow" of the former twin towers.
"It doesn't matter what Muslims believe, anymore than anybody else," Mr. Murray writes. "But it matters how they behave. If the New York mosque is anything to go by, that test at least is being failed by some American Muslims very conspicuously indeed."