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Obama Backs Group Seeking to Build Mosque in New York

President Barack Obama said Friday night he supports Muslims who wish to exercise their right to build a mosque a few blocks from ground zero in Manhattan.

Conservative groups have strongly opposed that plan, saying the emotions of the 9/11 terrorist attacks are still too raw and that the mosque’s backers should seek a site farther away.

Obama, speaking at a White House dinner celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, waded directly into the controversy.

“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 center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.”

However, Obama also remarked at length about the ongoing pain and sacrifice resulting from the terrorist attacks.

“We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honor those who have led our response to that attack — from the firefighters who charged up smoke-filled staircases, to our troops who are serving in Afghanistan today,” Obama said according to prepared remarks.

Reps. André Carson (D-Ind.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rush Holt (D-N.J.) were among the event’s attendees. Carson is one of two Muslims in Congress, along with Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

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