New York, May 30(ANI): New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the construction of a proposed mosque near Ground Zero, saying that it must be allowed to proceed because the government "should not be in the business of picking" one religion over another.
"I think it's fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming," The New York Post quoted Bloomberg, as saying.
"And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too," he added.
Bloomberg further argued that blocking the 13-story mosque and Islamic cultural center would violate the essence of America.
"What is great about America and particularly New York is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does that say about us? Democracy is stronger than this. You know the ability to practice your religion was one of the real reasons America was founded," he added.
The New York Mayor's comments came after angry relatives of the 9/11 victims were involved in a clash with supporters of the proposed mosque during a community-board hearing.
Holding up photos of family members killed in the Twin Towers and carrying signs such as, "Honor 3,000, 9/11 - No mosque!" opponents of the planned mosque called the plan an insult to the terror-attack victims.
Retired FDNY Deputy Chief Al Santora, whose 23-year-old son, Christopher, was the youngest firefighter to die on the fateful day, opposed the plan saying that it was the burial ground of his son.
"I do have a problem with having a mosque on top of the site where [terrorists] can gloat about what they did," Santora said. (ANI)