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North Carolina's three candidates for U.S. Senate are staking out their own territory on the proposed mosque near ground zero in New York City.
Republican Sen. Richard Burr called the project "incredibly insensitive" and said he'd prefer to see it go elsewhere. Libertarian candidate Michael Beitler had no problem with the project's location and said the more extreme efforts to block it seemed "un-American." Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall, meanwhile, declined to take a position on the topic.
The proposed Islamic center and mosque would be located two blocks from the World Trade Center site. It's a plan that has upset some relatives of Sept. 11 victims and led critics, including politicians such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, to denounce the proposed location.
At first, each of the North Carolina candidates for Senate said in interviews that it was largely an issue to be settled in New York. Burr said the courts would almost certainly deem it constitutional, but hoped the planners would pick a different site.
"I think it's incredibly insensitive," Burr said in an interview this week. "I can understand the outrage of New Yorkers, of 9/11 victims' families."
Beitler said he understands the sensitivities and has no problem with people asking for it to go elsewhere. But critics have argued that the site of mass murder by Islamic extremists is no place for such an institution. Beitler feels that protests against it have simply become "anti-Muslim."
"I don't think there's a sense in the Muslim community that this is some sort of 'in-your-face' victory," he said. "I'm OK with it personally."
Muslim groups have called for religious tolerance. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month found that 70 percent of American voters believe Muslims have the right to build the facility, but 63 percent say doing so would be wrong.
Pressed several times to give an opinion on the proposed mosque, Marshall demurred, saying it's an issue for the people of New York to settle.
"I'm not going to weigh in on that," she said. "That's something that they're going to have to decide."