|Obama endorses mosque plan
near Ground Zero
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US
President Barack Obama has waded into a bitter
controversy over a plan by Muslims to build a mosque
just blocks from Ground Zero, endorsing the project
on religious freedom grounds.
“As a citizen, and as President, I believe that
Muslims have the same right to practice their
religion as anyone else in this country,” Obama said
“That includes the right to build a place of worship
and a community centre on private property in lower
Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and
Obama’s remarks, delivered at a White House Iftar
meal for Muslims breaking their Ramadan fast, were
the President’s first on the controversial project,
which has become a test of tolerance for Islam in
post-9/11 America and sparked a national debate on
freedom of religion.
Republican reaction was swift and negative.
Congressman Peter King, who represents New York in
the US House of Representatives, said the Muslim
community was “abusing” of its rights and
“needlessly offending” many people.
“It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim
community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground
zero,” King, a Republican, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately the president caved in to political
A CNN/Opinion Research poll earlier this month
showed that 68 percent of Americans opposed plans to
build the mosque near Ground Zero, while only 29
percent favoured it.
Intended to include a mosque, sports facilities,
theatre, restaurant and possibly a day care, the
multi-story Islamic centre would be open to all
visitors to demonstrate that Muslims are part of
their community, planners say.