Tim Pawlenty calls a Ground Zero mosque unpatriotic [UPDATED]

Tim Pawlenty butts in on New York City's business
Tim Pawlenty butts in on New York City's business
Photo: marcn

Updated: Rep. Keith Ellison trashes Pawlenty's "unseemly" pandering to extremists. Details after the jump.

Muslims, evidently, are unpatriotic. That's the word from our ever-turning-rightward governor. He was asked by RealClearPolitics what he thought about an Islamic center being built two blocks away from the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

"I'm strongly opposed to the idea of putting a mosque anywhere near Ground Zero - I think it's inappropriate," he said. "I believe that 3,000 of our fellow innocent citizens were killed in that area, and some ways from a patriotic standpoint, it's hallowed ground, it's sacred ground, and we should respect that. We shouldn't have images or activities that degrade or disrespect that in any way."

He didn't mention how he feels about the Pentagon mosque.

Updated: Rep. Keith Ellison of Minneapolis, the first Muslim elected to Congress, told the Star Tribune that the governor seemed to be pandering to extremists as a naked political ploy.

"I know he wants to be president really bad, and I know he's trying to appeal to the most extreme elements of his party to do that, but I hope he doesn't want to be president so bad that he's willing to dishonor the First Amendment and our heritage of religious tolerance," Ellison told the Star Tribune.

Ellison called on Pawlenty to apologize.

"It's very unseemly that a Midwestern politician would try to divide New Yorkers and Americans on the basis of religion," the Minnesota Democrat said.

Pawlenty's words stand in stark contrast to those of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor has spoken forcefully in support of the mosque, which is part of a much larger facility modeled on programs such as the Y.M.C.A. and Jewish community centers.

"Our doors are open to everyone. Everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules. New York City was built by immigrants, and it's sustained by immigrants -- by people from more than 100 different countries speaking more than 200 different languages and professing every faith. And whether your parents were born here or you came here yesterday, you are a New Yorker.

"We may not always agree with every one of our neighbors. That's life. And it's part of living in such a diverse and dense city. But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11, 2001.

And Bloomberg had this to say about government officials meddling in private religious affairs:

"Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here."

Read a transcript of Bloomberg's remarks here. Watch video of Bloomberg's remarks below:

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