NYC mosque sparks emotional response

FRESNO, Calif.

According to the poll conducted by SurveyUSA, only 18-percent of Valley residents believe building Cordoba house would be appropriate. 76-percent believe the mosque near ground zero is inappropriate. Two thirds of those polled think the government should prevent construction of the mosque.

The mosque debate in Manhattan has triggered an emotional response here in the Valley. Andy Isolano was just getting off duty as a New York City firefighter as the first plane smashed into the World Trade Center. In the hours that followed Isolano found himself in the midst of the dust and the rubble of what is now called ground zero. He lost 13 close friends that day and 343 fellow firefighters.

Andy Isolano said, "I try not to let it affect me everyday. Things in my life are going really well right now ... but when it comes up ... it comes up ... and it hurts."

Isolano left New York and moved to Madera County six years ago ... but word of erecting an Islamic cultural center near ground zero puts him right back at the scene of 9/11. He is visibly upset by the idea. He said, "It becomes a political statement ... it's not a matter of what it is ... it's ... why does it have to be there."

Kamal Abu-Shamsieh of Fresno's Islamic Cultural Center just returned from the proposed location of the Cordoba House ... a 13 story cultural center and mosque. He believes there is no better place to put an interfaith house. But he says the current debate over Cordoba House has more to do with what he calls "Islamaphobia" than location of a mosque.

Abu-Shamsieh said, "With this entire issue of the Cordoba House there has been weighing in on frustration ... on fear ... on hatred ... which we cannot allow anxiety fear and hatred to sway us away from what is preserving the American thing ... which is preservation of religious liberties."

Friday night President Obama added fire to the debate when he made a comment at a White House dinner about America's commitment to religious freedom. The President said, "That includes the right to build a place of worship." But on Saturday the president told reporters they should not read too much into his words. The President said, "I was not commenting and will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to build a mosque there."

Monday the senate's top democrat Harry Reid broke ranks with the president saying the mosque should be built somewhere else. Reid is in a tight re-election campaign in Nevada. And with elections just a few months away it's likely other candidates across the country will feel it necessary to weigh in on what's happening with Cordoba House in New York.

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