Obama defends ground zero mosque plans
Washington (CNN) — President Obama threw his support behind a controversial proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near New York’s ground zero, saying Friday that “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country,” according to remarks distributed by the White House.
“Let me be clear: 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, according to prepared remarks released before a speech.
“That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” he said.
Obama was speaking at a White House Iftar dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The president invoked the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which critics of the Islamic center cite as the main reason for preventing its construction.
“We must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan,” Obama said, according to his prepared remarks. “The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country.”
“The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable,” he continued. “So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.”
But Obama argued that American ideals and the Constitution demanded that the project proceed.
“This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable,” he said. “The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.”