Washington, Aug 5(ANI): The Obama administration has distanced itself from the heated dispute over whether an Islamic cultural center and mosque should be built a couple blocks away from the 9/11 Ground Zero.
"This is rightly a matter for New York City and the local community to decide," CBS News quoted Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary, as saying.
It comes despite President Barack Obama's high profile efforts to reach out to the Muslim community since taking office.
"Islam, as we know, is part of America," Obama had said last September.
On a number of occasions, Obama has also sought to defend American Muslims from the stigma of the terrorists who share their religion.
"We know that the vast majority of Muslims reject Al-Qaeda," he said last January.
Based on these statements, it was expected that Obama would take the side of the Muslims seeking to build the 13-story community center and mosque in New York.
However, it is now being said that the President does not want to offend the Muslims nor the families of 9/11 victims, who view the construction of the mosque as an insult to the memories of their loved ones.
New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission has sanctioned the construction of the 100 million dollar mosque and center by a vote of nine to zero.
The issue has taken on national proportions with Republicans such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich coming out in opposition of the construction.
It has also become a part of the governor's race in New York with Republican Rick Lazio opposing it and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in favor. (ANI)