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News  


 

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 late Friday.
“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 ordinances.”
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 correctness.”
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.