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New York mosque debate splits GOP

Some Republicans fear the issue will be a distraction as elections near and that it will undercut the party's efforts to broaden its base.

August 17, 2010|By Janet Hook and Tom Hamburger, Tribune Washington Bureau

"I have spent time in the West Wing and know what it is like for a president who has Muslim citizens, has armed forces at his command and has Muslim soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq who are fighting at our side against Islamic radicalism" to oppose construction of a mosque, Gerson said. "A president cannot say that a holy building serving people of this faith somehow desecrates Manhattan."

Bush has stayed out of the political dispute over the mosque. His spokesman, David Sherzer, said Tuesday that Bush would have no comment on the building plans. Less than a week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Bush visited the Islamic Center in Washington. "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam," he said then. "Islam is peace."

A group of prominent Arab American and Muslim Republicans circulated a letter Tuesday to top party officials, expressing concern over the language Gingrich and other notables were using in the debate.

The signers included Norquist's wife, Samah, who served as an advisor in the George W. Bush administration; former Bush White House aide Suhail Khan; and Sherine El-Abd, president of the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women.

"While we share the desire of all in our party to be successful in the November elections, we cannot support victory at the expense of the U.S. Constitution or the Arab and Muslim community in America," they wrote.

janet.hook@latimes.com

tom.hamburger@latimes.com

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