A Republican who is an outspoken proponent of religious freedom said the controversial Islamic center in New York City should be built “an appropriate distance away” from Ground Zero.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J) told the Hill Wednesday it would be “wise, prudent and deeply religious” of the center to reconsider its plans. He said the Sept. 11 hijackers “perverted Islam” by claiming to carry out the attacks in the name of Allah, but said the feelings of victims’ families cannot be ignored.
“It’s a juxtaposition that reignites and reopens wounds for the survivors of those who died,” Smith said.
“While [the Islamic center developers] can do it — it’s legal — they shouldn’t do it,” he added.
Smith cited his interactions with victims’ families to explain his opposition to the Islamic center’s location. One of his staffers lost her husband in the Sept. 11 attacks, and he developed close relationships with several widows who camped out in his office several years ago to lobby for the 9/11 Commission.
Smith's remarks are the most reasoned and thoughtful I have seen to date.