The Center for American Progress, one of Washington's most muscular groups on the left, on Saturday issued a full-throated defense of President Barack Obama's controversial endorsement of a mosque near Ground Zero.
"We understand the raw emotions triggered by memories of September 11, but we are not at our strongest when we are fearful," the group said in a statement. "We support building this mosque."
John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and co-chairman of Obama's presidential transition, is the group's president and CEO.
"STATEMENT: CAP Supports Building of Mosque Near Ground Zero," the group said in a release e-mailed Saturday afternoon. Here's the text:
"The United States is at its strongest when Americans have the courage to stand up for the values that make this country great. President Obama is upholding the best traditions of our Constitution in supporting the right of Muslim Americans to build a mosque and community center on private property near Ground Zero.
"September 11th has left deep scars on Manhattan and the United States. The family and friends of the 3,000 who perished have suffered the most, yet all Americans share in the pain of that fateful day. Ground Zero is hallowed ground and will forever live in our hearts. But it is wrong to believe that we honor the victims by rejecting the values they cherished while succumbing to the very fear and hatred their murderers were trying to provoke.
"Osama bin Laden wants Muslims to believe that America and the West are at war with Islam. That distorted view is the best and virtually only way he has to recruit young Muslims into his murderous cause. That cause targets America and our allies, but his primary mission is to destroy contemporary Islam and the majority of his victims are Muslims.
"The biggest threat to bin Laden is precisely the kind of Islam that is embodied in the Cordoba Initiative mosque and community center. Muslim Americans practicing their religion in freedom, rejecting the perversion of the faith that drives al Qaeda, and preaching against radicalism and violence is exactly what bin Laden fears. Building this facility will strengthen America’s fight against al Qaeda.
"We understand the raw emotions triggered by memories of September 11, but we are not at our strongest when we are fearful. The American experiment with freedom and religious liberty would not have been unique if it was easy and would not have survived without brave decisions to sustain it. We support building this mosque."