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Obama hosts Iftaar extending support to build Ground Zero mosque

Saturday August 14, 2010 02:47:14 PM, PTI

U.S. President Barack Obama hosted an Iftar dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington on Friday.

(Photo: Associated Press)

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Washington: U.S. President Barack Obama has strongly supported the move to build a mosque at Ground Zero in New York, saying U.S. commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.

“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 in his remarks at an Iftaar dinner hosted by him at the White House.

“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,” he added.

“This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. 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,” Obama said.

The Indian Ambassador to the U.S., Meera Shankar, was among the select few diplomats, mostly from Muslim countries, to attend the Iftaar dinner which was attended by top Muslim leaders, academicians and lawmakers of the U.S.

“Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities - particularly in New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan,” he said.

“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. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” Obama said as he went on to support the move to construct a mosque there.

“We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honour 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,” he said.

“Let us always remember who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for. Our enemies respect no freedom of religion. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam — it is a gross distortion of Islam,” he said.

These are not religious leaders — these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion — and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11, Obama said.

“That is who we are fighting against. And the reason that we will win this fight is not simply the strength of our arms — it is the strength of our values. The democracy that we uphold. The freedoms that we cherish. The laws that we apply without regard to race or religion; wealth or status,” the President said.

“Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect to those who are different from us - a way of life that stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today,” Obama said.




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